Are Offer Sheets A Realistic Option This Summer?

The 2021 NHL offseason hasn’t even begun yet and the twists and turns it is talking the Philadelphia Flyers and their fans on has been a neck-breaking journey. From top defenseman chatter to shooting down options to Eichel rumors, we’ve seen it all so far. Though one of the new emerging theories seems to be going down the path of an offer sheet. The Flyers have been all too familiar with offer sheets in the past, most recently striking out on Shea Weber, to trying their hand at Ryan Kesler in 2006, and successfully signing Chris Gratton away from the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1997.

For the most part, offer sheets in the modern day NHL are a rare occurrence, as only two have been submitted since the Weber deal in 2012, neither successfully.

Though as the salary cap is remaining flat for the foreseeable future and a whole bunch of young superstars are available, could this be the year the offer sheet makes its triumphant return to the NHL? There are some very enticing options including Colorado defenseman Cale Makar, Vancouver sniper Elias Pettersson, Senators forward Brady Tkachuk and Sabres former first overall pick Rasmus Dahlin. With a few teams struggling to breath due to the flat cap, is now an opportune time to swoop in and pick up a young star?

Compensation for an offer sheet in 2021 goes as follows-

Average Annual ValueCompensation
$1,439,820 or lowerno pick
$1,439,821 to $2,181,545Third round pick
$2,181,546 to $4,363,095Second round pick
$4,363,096 to $6,544,640First and third round picks
$6,544,641 to $8,726,188First, second and third round picks
$8,726,189 to $10,907,7362 Firsts, second and third round picks
$10, 907,736 or higher4 First round picks

Let’s work under the pretext of Cale Makar, possibly the most enticing option, and assume the Flyers try and negotiate a deal with the 22-year-old defenseman. First and foremost, the Flyers own all the picks necessary to enter any monetary bracket they so choose.

The Avalanche are in a bit of a sticky situation. They only have 13 NHL caliber players (zero goalies) under contract next season and about $25.5 million (according to capfriendly) to fill out their roster, with both Makar and captain Gabriel Landeskog due contract extensions.

The obvious issue with an offer sheet is finding that sweet spot when it comes to the dollar value a team offers a player. It needs to be high enough that the original team can’t match it, but not so high it cripples the signing team. Send too low of an offer and the original team will easily match, even if it causes them to make moves elsewhere in the lineup.

That seems to be the issue here with Makar. He’s quickly turning into a generational player, and that probably means the Flyers would have to put together a borderline obscene offer just to keep the Avalanche from being able to match the deal. But with the Flyers on the cusp of their own financial issues as Sean Couturier and Joel Farabee amongst others are due contracts next season. Would it be worth signing Makar to a big money deal if it means having to torpedo a different part of the roster?

To successfully scare off the Avalanche, the offer sheet would probably have to be in the $9-$10 million range. Any lower and Colorado would probably match the deal, even if it means losing Landeskog and another forward to make the cap work.

Is there a good chance Makar could live up to a $10 million a year contract? Absolutely. Can the Flyers afford to give a player $10 million a season given their current state, even someone the caliber of Makar? Probably not.

This scenario applies to most of the restricted free agents out there. It’s tempting to throw money at Makar or Pettersson but it holds longterm ramifications with the signing team the are only exacerbated with the salary cap remaining stagnant for years to come.

All six of the last offer sheets have been matched, and only three of the last 15 dating back to 1997, have been successful. The issue almost always being that the money just isn’t dumb enough. The Shea Weber 14-year, $110 million was an exception, but there was a decent reason for Nashville to hang onto the guy. The most recent offer came from Montreal, who tried to pluck Sebastian Aho out of Carolina with a five-year, $42 million deal. Even though the Hurricanes tend to be cheap, that’s a very fair deal for a player of Aho’s talent. Ditto for Ryan O’Reilly, who was the only other deal since Weber’s when Calgary signed him to a two year, $10 million contract to try and steal him away from Colorado. That situation was a bit complicated as well due to outside factors, but it just wasn’t enough for Colorado to balk at.

If there was ever a good time for offer sheets to make their return to the NHL, it’d be this summer. The mix of limited cap space and the availability of top guys makes for a perfect offer sheet scenario, but it isn’t a storyline worth holding your breath over. NHL general managers are like an old boys club. They try to ruffle each other’s feathers as little as possible and there’s no reason to thank that will change this season. Every team is going through their own financial issues, with both owners and front offices alike struggling to find a reason to go hog wild when it comes to spending money.

Adding a defenseman the caliber of Cale Makar is indeed a cool thought. It’d be exactly what the doctor ordered for the Flyers. For Chuck Fletcher to go out and steal away one of the best youngsters in the game today is a baller move that he, quite frankly, doesn’t seem fit to pull off. The Flyers better keep looking elsewhere if they want true upgrades in the lineup, because a blockbuster offer sheet just isn’t coming their way.

By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

photo credit: milehighsticking.com / dailyhive.com

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