The Year of the Offer Sheet?
Over the coming weeks we’ll delve into the season in review and all the other off season stuff but today I wanted to plant a seed for July 1st. When free agency opens up there could be a lot of “unusual” movement in the league and it could have a profound impact on the Blues.
All players during their career will sign an entry level contract and after that expires they will be considered a restricted free agent (RFA). RFA’s are allowed to sign an offer sheet from another team and the Blues (in this case) will have a chance to match it or the player goes to the new team and receive draft picks as compensation.
Why am I bringing this up now? Here are the Blues’ RFA’s: Chris Stewart, T.J. Oshie and David Perron
Pretty high profile names that will get people upset if they go and IT COULD HAPPEN.
Say what you want about Chris Stewart and his inconsistent play but there were times where he was the best player on the ice. The benching during the playoffs have had a profound effect on him and he’s already made some major changes to his offseason. So far he’s hired a dietitian and a personal trainer, something he’s never done before.
He has 25-30 goal potential and maybe more. Throw in the physical side that we’ve seen flashes of and if he can put it all together he could be a Brendan Shannahan type player. He’s only 24 and we have seen players develop at a faster rate but is he worth giving up on just yet? I think he’s earned a 1 year deal kind of like Oshie’s last year to give him a chance before he receives his walking papers but if a team like Ottawa or the Islanders offer him a multi-year deal will the Blues match it or do they take the picks?
T.J. Oshie. What more do I need to say? He was a BIG stretch when he was drafted and look what he’s turned into, a fan favorite with a ton of talent who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. This is a guy who a lot of teams want to have on their roster and jokes have been made about trading him for other teams star players when it’s been lightly brought up in conversation. (GM’s have a sense of humor too)
But last year when his contract was up the Blues offered him a 2 year deal which he rejected and instead accepted a 1 year deal for more guaranteed money. Why he did that is his business but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was expecting to receive a big offer sheet this offseason and he might get it.
When you tie for the team lead in points (54 19 G 35A) and are a number 2 seed, you’re going to draw a lot of attention. He already made $2.35 million last season and can ask for a hefty raise and a 3-5 year deal. David Backes has a $4.5 million cap hit for the next 4 years and Oshie has matched his point total and is 3 years younger. We’ve seen bigger contracts handed out by teams like Florida to get to the cap floor and with a producer like Oshie on a team that wasn’t exactly known for scoring a ton of goals, he’s a player that would be worth giving up the picks for. Do you think Colorado would love to have Oshie on their team? A tough division with the Canucks at the top, someone with grit and talent would be a welcome addition.
Last but not least is Frenchie, David Perron. Here’s a guy who missed an entire year from a concussion and came back to play 57 games and still end up 5th on the team in points. He may not have the physical presence that you’d like but his skill CLEARLY is tops on the team and up there with the best in the league. If there was one guy that I see the team spending big on it’s him, but will others feel the same way?
There are a few teams with the cap space and the system that would really benefit from having him on their teams. Phoenix and Minnesota are first to come to mind. Both play in divisions with strong offensive teams and with one ready to breakout (Edmonton). Phoenix has a very nice collection of young forwards and Frenchie would make them that much more potent. If you’re watching the Western Conference finals, just imagine how the Coyotes would improve with his skill set (it makes me want to throw up how sick they’d be). Minnesota has some nice pieces in Setoguchi, Heatly and Koivu. Add a puck moving defenseman and Perron this team is drastically different.
Why am I bringing this up? Why these three players? Because the Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) market is very weak. Most teams will be forced to either make trades or sign players to offer sheets. The few free agents that are worth the big bucks will be able to command whatever price they want. Teams will be fighting over them and most will be left without a chair when the music stops.
So that leaves the RFA market that is usually stacked but it is a gentleman’s agreement not to deal with other teams RFA’s. That doesn’t always happen. Look at the David Backes/Vancouver situation. (Vancouver signed him to an offer sheet to much more than what he was worth hoping that the Blues wouldn’t match. They did and did the same to one of their players. ANOTHER reason to hate the Canucks) Given that this UFA market is so weak I’m not sure that teams CAN’T afford to not venture into that market.
The Blues are in a pretty good spot if they choose to do so. They’ve drafted well since the lockout and if they HAD to give up a couple of picks they’d be ok. Will they do it? I’m not counting on it. This isn’t a team flush with cash that can spend to the cap and be OK. If Stillman fixes the revenue situation maybe down the road the cap MIGHT be possible.
A few things to understand here:
I have NO IDEA what the Blues’ payroll will look like next year and anyone who says that they do are lying. Stillman does have intimate knowledge of the finances but what his plan is isn’t clear. (we can only hope they fire their marketing and apparel division. It might be the worst in the league)
One thing that we’ll know here soon enough is if Vladimir Tarasenko is coming over to the Blues. He told upper management that he’d give them the answer after the world championships, which are being played right now. If Tarasenko comes over and the Blues lose one these guys it will help make up for their lost contributions.
There has been some speculation that it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Blues traded a young player to help fill a need. I wouldn’t count out the the idea of a sign and trade, not just with the RFA’s but with some of the UFA’s too. (we’ll cover them later)