Offer sheets in the National Hockey League are nearly unicorn-level lore, but there’s probably more consideration of them than we ever really know.
Case in point: Elliotte Friedman appeared on Vancouver’s Sportsnet 650 on Tuesday afternoon, and during an 18-minute or so conversation which covered a variety of topics, the NHL Insider was asked why a team isn’t offer-sheeting Detroit Red Wings restricted free agent Andreas Athanasiou.
Within his response Friedman revisited a piece of information regarding Jamie Benn of which you’ve probably heard, but also shared another noteworthy nugget about Evander Kane.
“I think there’s a couple of things,” began Friedman on the Athanasiou offer sheet theory front. “No. 1, he’s really talented but he’s still a little bit unproven. No. 2, there is a certain wrath of other teams and people in the league that you have to deal with.
“Look, if you look at the Canucks’ history, the Canucks were a team that had to battle with some offer sheets. They had the Kesler one. And then they did the battling with Backes and Steve Bernier. And people remember – they get you back.
“I’ve talked about this story before, about how the Vancouver team had a big decision years ago, right before the 2012-13 lockout – they considered offer-sheeting Jamie Benn, and I think they were really legitimately thinking about doing it. At the end of the day, they just decided not to because A) they thought Dallas would match, and B) I think they were worried about the repercussions.
“I believe at one point – I think I told that story on the morning show last week – and then somebody reached out to me and said that he’d heard at one point in time that Evander Kane had walked into the Canucks’ office and had tried for an offer sheet. And I think the Canucks considered it, but again, same thing. Not to the same level they considered Benn. They really considered that one. And then at the end of the day they considered not to do it.
“Now, I have had GMs tell me that they think they are coming because the amount of good players that reach the open market, it’s so few. There’s less free agency than ever. And when I wrote that in my notes, I think it was just before the summer, I had a couple of GMs that called me about it and said, ‘Do you really believe that this is going to happen?’ I said, ‘That’s what some of your peers are telling me.’
“It’s always tough to be the first guy to do it, but I think you’re going to see more. I know there were some people who thought Connor Brown was going to get one in Toronto. But he signed and it was never really an issue.”
In case you haven’t heard Friedman’s thoughts on the Benn situation, here’s a quick look at what he said in June of 2015.
“Right before the last lockout in 2013, the Vancouver Canucks were considering putting an offer sheet on for Jamie Benn. And this is a story I worked on for a long time, trying to find out exactly what they were trying to do. I’ve never proven it, but my guesstimate is it’s this – that they were looking at a one-year deal in the $7-7.5 million range.
“And what that meant is that Dallas was going to have to match it for like three years. They were simply going to have to go out and until he became an unrestricted free agent, they were going to have to match it every year. And that was going to be about three years.
“At the end of the day, the Canucks didn’t do it for two reasons. No. 1, they didn’t know what the new rules were going to be in the CBA, so that was one. And the second reason was they also thought they would match it – Dallas would. And all of the sudden, you’d be looking at every guy and every guy was going to be going up. And you’re not going to make that effort unless you’re getting the player.”
Tuesday afternoon’s discussion on Sportsnet 650 stayed on offer sheets a little while longer, and Friedman also pointed out the impact offer sheets can have on the salaries of players on other teams.
“So you’re not even involved, and you’re looking at that team and you’re pissed off at them,” the Insider remarked. “I think you understand – at some level you want to beat everybody – but at some level you have to cooperate with everybody. And I think there are general managers who have done things like that before, and they do say that the world can freeze you out pretty quickly.”
TSN’s Bob McKenzie had an perfect example of that exact ‘freeze you out’ notion during a December 2016 offer sheet discussion.
“Jay Greenberg had a Philadelphia Flyer book come out in the last little while here on 50 years, or whatever it was, of the Flyers,” recalled the Insider at the time. “Paul Holmgren was quoted in there as saying that he felt the chill of his peers, he believes, because he offer-sheeted Shea Weber. And that he felt his fellow relationship with his general managers after putting in the offer sheet on Shea Weber – unsuccessfully, of course, because it was matched by Nashville – that he found it more difficult to do his job.
“So interesting perspective from him.”
Pierre LeBrun shared a funny anecdote during the summer of 2016, that – while perhaps rooted in humor and also logistically unlikely given all of the draft picks that would have to be involved – still reveals that Friedman and McKenzie are likely bang-on with what they’ve shared regarding general managers’ mentalities on this particular subject.
LeBrun: One GM has told me, 'If anyone offer-sheets one of my guys on Friday, I will offer-sheet one of his guys every year for 10 years.'
— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) June 29, 2016