Top Offer Sheet Targets That Will Make Teams Think Twice

Making offer sheets is a dangerous game. But hockey thrives on chaos. Here is a list of players who may attract offer sheets with a compensation package that could really force their teams to think twice about matching.
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Elias Pettersson

Making offer sheets is a dangerous game. 

It can be a complicated process because you have to gauge the player’s willingness to sign, your ability to absorb the contract you offered and the receiving team’s willingness to match. In most cases, teams are very protective of their assets and will certainly match almost any offer. 

In the cap era, there has only been one instance where a team has declined to match an offer sheet; in 2007, the Ducks declined to match the Oilers’ offer for Dustin Penner, and it became such a heated affair it almost led to an actual fistfight.

Some smart general managers may even think two steps ahead; by saddling a team with an offer sheet they have to match, it may put them up against or over the cap and force them to part with other pieces on their roster that will have to be traded or moved for pennies on the dollar. With a flat cap, there’s a cascading effect when a contract throws a team’s cap structure out the window.

But hockey thrives on chaos, and chaos is what we shall deliver. Here is a list of players who do not have arbitration hearings and may attract offer sheets with a compensation package that could really force their teams to think twice about matching. 

It’s not always about assigning the proper value or compensation package to a player; it’s making an offer sheet that may force the receiving team to decline so you have a good chance to get the player you want. All numbers are courtesy CapFriendly.

Elias Pettersson, Vancouver Canucks
Compensation tier: four first-round picks, AAV: $10,276,830+

There are very good reasons the Canucks are afraid of a potential offer sheet for their franchise player. Per CapFriendly, the Canucks have a little over $14 million in cap space with Pettersson, Quinn Hughes (who is ineligible as a 10.2(c) RFA), Jason Dickinson (also ineligible due to player-elected salary arbitration) and Olli Juolevi left to sign.

The Canucks will presumably match any offer sheet, both as a symbolic gesture to the league that their players cannot be poached and because there’s no guarantee any of their four first-round picks received as compensation will yield a player of Pettersson’s caliber. But if we play a little 3D chess here, any offer sheet worth more than $10,276,830 per season will leave the Canucks with too little money for Hughes. In order to fit both Pettersson and Hughes, the Canucks will have to shed salary yet again with little leverage in trade negotiations.

Andrei Svechnikov, Carolina Hurricanes
Compensation tier: two first-round picks, one second-round pick, one third-round pick, AAV: $8,221,464 to $10,276,829

The Canes are always an interesting case study because they seem so cost-conscious. This is also a compensation tier above the Canadiens’ offer sheet for Sebastian Aho in 2019, in which the compensation would’ve been just three picks, one each in the first three rounds of the 2020 draft. With four picks, including two in the first round, that may force the Canes to think twice, and the team making the offer sheet could offer up to $10,276,829 to further upset the Canes’ cap structure.

However, there’s a lot of risk in signing a 21-year-old who hasn’t hit his full potential to such a lucrative contract; according to CapFriendly, only one player has signed a contract with an eight-digit AAV at age 21: Jack Eichel.

Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers
Compensation tier: one first-round pick, one second-round pick, one third-round pick, AAV: $6,166,097 to $8,221,463

This would be a very aggressive move, considering the awful season Hart just had. But remember that it wasn’t long ago when we were ready to anoint him as the goalie of the future for Canada’s national team. At this point, no one’s sure which Hart will show up in October, and there’s a lot of risk to making big commitments to big goalies. Cam Ward led the Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup title, but in the following years never reached that same peak again even though he remained a serviceable starter.

The Flyers will likely match any offer because there’s no immediate replacement should they lose Hart – Martin Jones won’t cut it – but it could definitely alter the course of their franchise.

Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers
Compensation tier: one first-round pick, one second-round pick, one third-round pick, AAV: $6,166,097 to $8,221,463

Shesterkin’s got limited experience, but he’s shown flashes of brilliance. The Rangers are in win-now mode judging by their free-agent signings, so will they be willing to commit this much to the potential heir to King Henrik’s throne right now? And with a defense that still lacks quality depth? Another aspect to consider is that the Rangers may already have a good backup plan in Alexandar Georgiev, who also has the potential to be a starter.

Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders
Compensation tier: one first-round pick, one second-round pick, one third-round pick, AAV: $6,166,097 to $8,221,463

At some point, Sorokin’s going to want to get his shot at being a No. 1. That time may come with the Isles soon, but it won’t be right now with Semyon Varlamov signed through the 2022-23 season a team-friendly $5-million cap hit. The Isles have cap space to play with, and putting Johnny Boychuck’s $6-million cap hit on LTIR will open up more space, but potentially investing over $11 million in net may not be such a great idea.

Sorokin, an Olympic gold medallist and a former KHL champion, has the pedigree to be a starter, and even if signing him to an offer sheet with this AAV seems like a big gamble, it would not be the worst contract for a goalie in the league.

Anthony Beauvillier, New York Islanders
Compensation tier: one first-round pick, one third-round pick, AAV: $4,110,733 to $6,166,096

Okay, we’re really looking to ruffle Lou Lamoriello’s feathers here, and that kind of scares me. However, Beauvillier is coming off a two-year bridge deal with an AAV of $2.1 million and has shown enough to prove that he can be a dangerous top-six scoring winger. At this compensation tier, the bet is that the Isles just don’t have the requisite cap space to fit everyone (including UFA’s Casey Cizikas, Kyle Palmieri and Zach Parise) and not because Beauvillier isn’t worth the money. Going into the next tier above would saddle the offering team with a contract that the 24-year-old may not live up to, and of course, they will have to be okay with losing a big chunk of their futures.

Ilya Samsonov, Washington Capitals
Compensation tier: one first-round pick, one third-round pick, AAV: $4,110,733 to $6,166,096

After re-signing Alex Ovechkin to an extension with a $9.5-million cap hit, the Caps have roughly $2.6 million to play with. Samsonov is just coming off his entry-level deal and he’s shown flashes of starting potential even though he’s just played 45 games, and don’t forget the Caps may already have another potential starter in Vitek Vanecek, whom they re-acquired from the Kraken.

Samsonov is probably worth more than just a first-round and third-round pick to the Caps, which is why a three-pick compensation package would be far more interesting (read: chaotic) but the performance and progression of young goaltenders are notoriously hard to predict. Is Samsonov worth committing to such a big contract already?

Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Montreal Canadiens
Compensation tier: one first-round pick, one third-round pick, AAV: $4,110,733 to $6,166,096

Kotkaniemi is still finding his way in the NHL and sat as a healthy scratch as recently as the playoffs, but part of the fun of offer sheets is applying pressure points and making teams hurt, and there’s precedent for retaliatory offer sheets; in 2008, the Canucks approached David Backes with a three-year, $7.5-million offer sheet, and not only did the Blues match, they turned around and made an offer sheet to Steve Bernier for one-year at $2.5 million.

A compensation package of just two picks – the next compensation tier below – probably won’t deter the Habs from matching, and making an offer sheet at the next highest compensation tier is a risk in itself because there’s still no telling how good Kotkaniemi will be. But the Habs have some immediate cap issues, and if they match the offer sheet then it might force them to move another player to fit Kotkaniemi’s new contract.

Nolan Patrick, Vegas Golden Knights
Compensation tier: one first-round pick, one third-round pick, AAV: $4,110,733 to $6,166,096

It’s unlikely the Knights will decline to match any offer sheet, since they gave up another former first-round pick in Cody Glass to get him, and Patrick shares ties with GM Kelly McCrimmon going back to their days with the Western League’s Brandon Wheat Kings. The Knights are betting on Patrick reaching his potential after being diagnosed with a migraine disorder and desperately need more bodies in the middle. However, an offer sheet in this range should at least force the Knights into making a difficult decision. An AAV at this rate for Patrick, even with his potential, is a big risk considering he scored just nine points in 52 games last season.

Kailer Yamamoto, Edmonton Oilers
Compensation tier: one first-round pick, one third-round pick, AAV: $4,110,733 to $6,166,096

Yamamoto is in a similar boat as Patrick; he’s got oodles of potential but after re-signing Darnell Nurse to a $74-million extension, it may not give the Oilers a lot of flexibility going forward, and they’re already up against the cap even though the extension hasn’t kicked in. Yamamoto is coming off the final year of his entry-level contract but had a down year in which he scored just eight goals and 21 points in 52 games. However, he’s a top-six winger on team short on quality depth, and that would make the Oilers’ decision very difficult, though declining to match could help them recoup a third-round pick which they traded to the Blackhawks as part of the deal for Duncan Keith. 

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