Potential NHL Offer Sheet Targets?
With news this week that the Philadelphia Flyers made a 14 year, $110 million offer sheet to Shea Weber, is it possible that the offer sheet may be a weapon that will be used by NHL GMs again?
Earlier this week I looked at the history of the NHL offer sheet. If we learn from history, we see that there are really two categories of players who become offer sheet targets. There are the legitimate superstars such as Joe Sakic, Sergei Fedorov, Scott Stevens and now Shea Weber. Weber is the only player available who fit into this criteria, so I doubt we see another offer sheet at this level.
However what we have also seen in the past are offer sheets for young, up and coming players. The type of player who has started to establish himself in the NHL, and has the potential to be a superstar, but doesn’t have a long enough track record to reach that level yet. In the past the offer sheets made to Dustin Penner, Ryan Kesler, and David Backes would fit in this category. These are the players that we look at as offer sheet risks today.
PK Subban, Defence, Montreal Canadiens
2011-12 Stats: 81 GP, 7 G, 29 A, 36 Pts, +9
PK showed the ability to be a number 1 defenceman last season. He played nearly 25 minutes per game, and was used in all situations by the Canadiens. Subban matched up against top lines, played on the PK, and on the PP. His offensive game might not have reached the levels that were expected after his rookie year, but 36 points is still an excellent total for a young defenceman, and PK has room to improve in this area. His defensive game has grown by leaps and bounds as he is a legitimate shut down defender and only turned 23 after the season was over. Playing so many minutes and being used as a matchup defenceman, Subban still finished +9 on a 28th place club. It really seems as if the sky is the limit for PK. The main thing he will need to work on going forward is reducing the number of penalties he takes.
I do think the offer sheet threat here is low. PK is Montreal’s only unsigned RFA, and the Habs have $6.3 million in Cap Space today. They are also one of the biggest revenue generating clubs in the NHL, and as such cash flow is not an issue. For these reasons I think its unlikely that Subban receives an offer.
Evander Kane, Winnipeg Jets, Left Wing
2011-12 Stats: 74 GP, 30 G, 27 A, 57 Pts,
Kane is just 20 years old, and has improved every year in the NHL. He really broke through this past season putting up 30 goals. He is a budding power forward and a key part of the future of the Jets. Kane has everything teams are looking for in a young winger, he is the total package. The former 4th overall pick has size, great skating, toughness, hockey sense, and an excellent shot and release. Evander Kane was also a key member of Canada’s top line at the World Championships, showing that he is capable of playing at a high level both with and against other elite players.
The Jets have over $19 million in cap space, and while they are in the NHL smallest arena, they do have the NHL’s 3rd highest average ticket price. They also have a good local TV deal, and a number of other quality revenue streams, helping the team remain in the middle of the pack in terms of revenue generation. They also have one of the richest owners in the NHL. As such I think the chances of an offer sheet are also low in this case, as the Jets have the financial ability to resist.
Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers, Right Wing
2011-12 Stats: 78 GP, 18 G, 31 A, 49 PTS
Voracek was a major piece coming back to Philadelphia Flyers in last summer’s trade where Jeff Carter was sent to Columbus. Voracek is developping into a legitimate top 6 winger and scored 49 points this past season. The young Czech is a creative offensive player who is equally adept at sniping goals with his hard crisp shot, or making plays with his excellent vision and passing ability. At just 22 years old, Voracek has plenty of room to continue to improve and could become the top line winger that was envisioned when he was drafted.
There is legitimate risk here, especially if the Flyers offer for Weber goes through. The Flyers are clearly a high revenue team and will have the revenue to be able to afford to match. However the Weber offer puts them extremely close to the cap. With Pronger on LTIR they do get some relief, and probably would still match, but the question lingers. There is also a history of retaliatory offer sheets, and so perhaps we should look at Nashville here. While Voracek is probably the biggest target on this list due to circumstances, that doesn’t make the risk that high, as I would still say it is more likely he doesn’t receive an offer than he does.
John Carlson, Washington Capitals, Defence
2011-12 Stats: 82 games, 9 G, 23 A, 32 Pts
Carlson is another young player at just 22 years old. He is a smooth skating defenceman who scored the tournament winning overtime goal at the 2010 World Junior Championships. Carlson has nearly three years of NHL experience and has really progressed at both ends of the ice. He is becoming an elite puck moving defenceman, with his skating and crisp passing skills. Carlson also has a hard, accurate shot, and this led to him scoring 9 goals this past season. He is another young player with untapped potential, and high end ability.
Calson is a player the Capitals must keep, and as such it will be difficult to pry him away via an offer sheet. With Dennis Wideman in Calgary the Capitals will be looking at Carlson as a key piece of their powerplay next season. They have all their major RFAs signed and over $10 million in cap space. The Capitals have generated a lot of revenue since becoming a marquee NHL team with the drafting of Alex Ovechkin, and normally spend at close to the cap limit. As such I think the risk is relatively low here.
Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars, Centre/Wing
2011-12 Stats: 71 GP, 26G, 37A, 63 Pts
Benn has been steadily improving since being a 5th round draft pick in the 2007 NHL Draft. He went from 41 points as a rookie, being used mainly as a winger, to 56 points in 2010-11 while starting a transitition to the centre position, to 63 points last year as a full-time centre. Benn has an elite offensive skillset including a snipers shot, good speed, and size. He also is a hard working player who is solid in the defensive zone as well. Benn is quickly becoming an excellent 1st line centre, and the type of player who is covetted by nearly every NHL team as such a player is becoming a very rare commodity in the NHL.
The Stars have a new owner who has pledged to spend money on the team. The acquisitions of Jaromir Jagr, Ray Whitney, and Derek Roy have certainly boosted the offence, while adding to the team’s payroll. The team also still has over $15,000,o00 in cap space as they were adding to a very bare bones roster after cutting salary over the last several seasons. This plus Benn’s importance to the Stars, makes prying him out of Dallas a very difficult proposition and lessens the chance of an NHL offer sheet.
Edit: one I missed, and should be added is Michael Del Zotto of the New York Rangers.
Michael Del Zotto, Defence, New York Rangers
2011-12 Stats: 77 GP, 10 G, 31 A, 41 Pts, +20
Del Zotto came into the NHL in 2009-10 at a very young age due to his unique offensive skill set. His great skating and puck moving ability meant that the Rangers were willing to keep the young blueliner on the team, despite some early struggles in his own zone. He makes a great first pass, and is excellent in transition. He is also a skilled Power Play Quarterback, whose hard, accurate shot led to him scoring 10 goals last season. Del Zotto’s issue was always his defensive game, however after a stint in the AHL in 2010-11, he is much improved in this aspect of his game. Del Zotto did yeoman’s work this season, playing huge minutes when Marc Staal started the season on injured reserve suffering from a concussion.
The Rangers are one of the richest clubs in the NHL. Finding the finances to match any deal would not be a problem, and with 15 million in cap space available, the chances of a team being able to pry Del Zotto loose with an offer sheet are extremely slim.
I do believe that the Shea Weber situation is a unique case. We had a legit NHL superstar, a Norris Trophy nominee as one of the best defencemen in the NHL. He’s also playing for one of the smaller market teams in the league, and the Flyers, through their set up in the offer itself are clearly trying to take advantage of Nashville’s limited revenue streams at this point in time. I don’t see any other players in a similar situation, with that level of elite talent. Nor do I see any teams who have the cash flow issues that the Predators do, and a quality RFA on the market. For that reason, I doubt we’ll see these guys get an offer sheet. But I wouldn’t have bet on one being used in the first place, so anything is possible.
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