The most predatory offer sheet

A new twist on the RFA market, and how to hurt your opponent

Jeremy White
July 07, 2017 - 4:39 am

Photo: Stan Szeto - USA TODAY Sports

I had a college professor with a background in local television. Professor John Nicholson spent some time with ESPN as well, hosting both the running of the bulls in Pamplona, and the Incredible Dog Challenge. One time he told us of a tactic that had been employed by local television stations that was designed to help their own interests and damage their competitors. They'd send resume reels of an anchor at the other station, to other markets, without any ask or push from the anchor.

The idea is simple. This person is good, and this person beats us all the time, so let's help this person get a job somewhere else.  

It's this mindset that has me turning back to restricted free agency in the NHL, and with that, offer sheets.  

Offer sheets are still off-limits, but there seems to be a small buzz that soon what is now against the code, will soon be weaponized.  

So what's the most effective way to do this? If a team is simply going to match any huge eight-year, $12 million dollar offer, what's the point? The truly predatory offer sheet makes a team agree to something that it doesn't want to agree to.

If Jack Eichel signs some eight-year, $88 million dollar offer sheet this time next year, the Sabres match it and we celebrate. He stays in town and gets paid fair market value.  

Think back to the Thomas Vanek signing with Edmonton. He signed a seven-year deal for $49 million dollars. His agent, Steve Bartlett, told Mike Schopp last week that the Vanek camp never expected the Sabres to match that sheet. They did. Why did they decide to match it? Perhaps they valued Vanek, at that time in his career as a $5 million dollar player and they were forced to make him a $7 million dollar player. How hard is that to swallow? Not that hard. Even though Edmonton was prepared to give up four first-round picks in the deal, the Oilers effectively forced Buffalo to pay a little more.

In any case with a super-talent like Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, or Auston Matthews, attempting to force the team with their rights to pay an extra few million is likely futile.

True predation is signing a player to a deal that the rights holder does not want to sign.

A predatory GM should sign Jack Eichel (or anyone else) to an offer sheet that gets the player to unrestricted free agency as soon as possible. In Jack's case, that'd be four years. If a team decided to sign Eichel to a four-year, $48 million dollar deal, we would not celebrate. The Sabres would match because the money is close enough to what they'd offer anyway. The Sabres would match because they don't want to lose the player. However, the Sabres would hate matching, because the asset that they have the right to protect under restricted free agency would be pulled out from under them, in a predatory offer sheet.

There's one thing Buffalo should want no part of in Eichel contract talks - four years. Put something in the offer sheet, that the rights holder won't give the player. If you find a player that's interested in hitting that UFA pay-day as soon as possible, you've got the potential to do some damage.

Team in your division has a great player that kills you every year? Bump the salary, and ensure that the player will either:

A.) Leave that team


B.) Bump his salary even higher in a few short years.

Connor McDavid's deal in Edmonton is the biggest in the NHL currently. It was reported that McDavid's camp only wanted to sign for five-years, and that Edmonton had to up the money to convince him to sign for longer. Now Edmonton has turned to Leon Draisaitl, and GM Peter Chiarelli insists that he'll match any offer.

A smart GM should swoop in and offer four years. You push the Oilers cap in the short term, and the long term. You further damage their ability to keep great players together by getting said player to unrestricted free agency as soon as possible.

If you know you're signing a deal that's going to be matched, it might feel futile. But if you know the deal you're offering is one that is likely off the table for the rights holder, but amenable to the player... now you're on to something.

Go ahead, NHL GMs. Take your cue from the cutthroat world of local news.

After all... this is supposed to be a competition, right?

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