It is a tactic that is not often used, but could this be the year that a restricted free agent signs an offer sheet and actually doesn’t get matched by their current team?
Since the 2004-05 lockout, there have been 8 offer sheets signed, with Dustin Penner being the only one that wasn’t matched, and as it turns out Anaheim was smart to let him walk to Edmonton. The offer sheets for Ryan Kesler, Thomas Vanek, David Backes, Steve Bernier, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Shea Weber and Ryan O’Reilly were all matched.
Offer sheets are often used as a ploy to make a team overspend to match the offer, and not necessarily to lure the player away. The compensation is also pretty detrimental to getting too many offer sheets in a season.
Restricted free agents that could be given offer sheets this season include Montreal’s P.K. Subban, Colorado’s O’Reilly, Justin Schultz of the Oilers, Minnesota’s Nino Niederreiter, Boston’s Torey Krug and a pair of big name Rangers – Derick Brassard and Chris Kreider.
The Senators Robin Lehner is also a restricted free agent that could garner some interest, although the goalie market won’t be too busy.
The most likely to sign an offer sheet is Subban, not because he wants to leave Montreal but it is the easiest way to get a deal done. There is no way the Habs are not going to match so it would be a wasted process unless a rival wanted to put the Habs in a tight spot cap-wise.
If you are a team really looking at adding a quality RFA from another team, O’Reilly might be the way to go. The Avs are still in the race to bring back Paul Stastny, and if an offer sheet gets in quick enough it would put them in a tough spot.