Vancouver Canucks: The offer sheet should not be dead

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 27: Trevor Linden (T), President of the Vancouver Canucks, Jim Benning (R) General manager of the Vancouver Canucks, and Eric Crawford (L), Director of Player Personel of the Vancouver Canucks are seen prior to the start of the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 27, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 27: Trevor Linden (T), President of the Vancouver Canucks, Jim Benning (R) General manager of the Vancouver Canucks, and Eric Crawford (L), Director of Player Personel of the Vancouver Canucks are seen prior to the start of the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 27, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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The NHL Offer Sheet is rarely used anymore. General Managers are far too comfortable with each other to pull off an aggressive move such as this. Here’s why the concept should be brought back and how this could help the Canucks.

I miss offer sheets. That unsettling fear around free agency, never knowing if another team will come in and snake your favourite younger player away. It made the free agency period more exciting. Nowadays we watch for who will make the dumbest signing in the unrestricted pool.

Offer sheets complicated things. It kept GM’s on their toes and drew pathetic fits of rage from others. Vancouver Canucks fans should be all too familiar with offer sheets. The franchise lost Petr Nedved to the St. Louis Blues because of one. Over the years, teams tried to scoop up Mattias Ohlund and Ryan Kesler.

Mike Gillis even tried to use the offer sheet to lure David Backes to Vancouver. Unfortunately, the Blues matched the offer and tried to repay Gillis by presenting an offer sheet to Steve Bernier (the Canucks matched it). These moments, as few as they were during the offseason sparked moments of excitement during an otherwise dull period of the year for hockey.

Today, things have changed. We haven’t seen this Wild West approach since Calgary’s failed attempt in 2013 (Hi, John Weisbrod). Managers operate too conservatively. Always looking to make the low risk, low upside move, some of which backfire with hilarious results. In a league with a reputation for being boring, they certainly live up to it. That’s why I propose we bring the offer sheet back with a vengeance. Let’s introduce a little chaos back into the league.

What happened to offer sheets?

Offer sheets are simple to explain. Basically, any team can present an offer to a restricted free agent without a contract. These players need to meet certain playing requirements based on age, which is in the CBA.

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The original team has a week to either match the offer or let the player go, receiving compensation in the form of draft picks. The higher the cap hit, the more picks you are receiving for the lost player. It’s almost like a forced trade, so the team victimized by the offer sheet don’t lose a good player for nothing (assuming a certain cap hit is reached).

Because of this, teams didn’t always go after the biggest fish on a team. Losing up to four first round picks is a serious price to pay, no matter how good that player is. You can see on CapFriendly how compensation ramps up with cap hit. Some look at offer sheets as forced trades.

However, the offer sheet was more than that. It forced managers to be aware and those with limited experience could hastily make a poor trade due to the fear around an offer sheet. Nashville nearly realized this fear in 2012 with Shea Weber. The Philadelphia Flyers thought the music city could not afford a front-loaded, 14-year, $110 million contract. Ultimately, Nashville bit the bullet to keep their star blueliner. The P.K. Subban trade helped them out of that contract later on. But at the time, an offer sheet on that scale was unheard of.

That’s one of the reasons today’s managers lack any teeth. They don’t want to be blacklisted from trades and suffer the incessant whining of people like Brian Burke. Maybe if they stopped caring about what others thought of them, they could get things done. The NHL has a major problem with innovation and progress, while their cowardly managers are at the centre of it.

A different angle with the Carolina Hurricanes

Because of the stigma that comes with offer sheets, there is no way Jim Benning would ever attempt this. However, we could look at a couple potential targets from the Carolina Hurricanes and what a possible offer sheet could entail.

These days, it seems everyone is up for grabs, aside from Sebastian Aho. So, let’s start with Noah Hanifin. The young defencemen has a big issue and the Hurricanes are keeping the trade price high.

Because we don’t know how much Hanifin expects on his next contract, it’s hard to dial in compensation. If we are looking at a cap hit between $4.059 and $6.088 million, that’s a first and third from the 2018 draft. An offer sheet like that won’t work for the Canucks since they are low on picks as is and would be overpaying on Hanifin. A trade will be expensive as well, which may mean that Hanifin is just out of the team’s price range.

How about his teammate, Elias Lindholm? Drafted in the same year as Bo Horvat, his NHL path has been less successful. Lindholm has been surpassed by players drafted after him, but he did have 44 points in 81 games this season.

The right-handed centre would be a nicer option on the second line than an overpaid free agent in July. I think offering him no more than $4.059 million per year is reasonable. That’s the upper limit of the second round pick compensation and the Canucks would have some flexibility in their forward group. Replacing that pick is easier to do and not as devastating a loss as seventh overall.

An uphill battle with fear

Like I said before, an offer sheet won’t be happening anytime soon, least of all with the Canucks current management. You could say Jim Benning and the rest just have mutual respect for one another. I just see a bunch of cowards gaming the system to avoid hurting anybody’s feelings.

These managers should not be friends; they are competitors aiming for the exact same thing: the Stanley Cup. You don’t win that trophy by being courteous. This league likes to advertise how tough their players are. Bragging about this courageous spirit, making the necessary sacrifices to win. On the ice, they are expected to be fearless, blocking high velocity shots and absorbing bone-crunching hits.

It’s not just their physical play, either. There is a mental toughness that is idolized like no other. However, once they enter the front office, that mental fortitude dies quietly in the night. They care more about what their peers think than getting the job done. It is both fascinating and disheartening at the same time.

I don’t just want offer sheets back to watch the terrible managers squirm. It’s a good way to weed out who is calm under pressure and who is quick to panic. We saw a slice of that at the Vegas Expansion Draft and I would like to see more. Managers should not be comfortable if a plan isn’t in place.

Offer sheets test how robust those plans are. Is the depth there? Have they managed their cap well enough to absorb an offer sheet? On the flip side, do they have the assets to go after someone exceptional?

Next: What fans should expect form a rebuild

Managers must constantly evaluate their team and their direction. Many of these executives think they can do no wrong and just try to react. That doesn’t work. Unless your goal is to be good and not strive for excellence. Take a look around. There are over a dozen good teams in this league. Few are excellent and only one has everything they need to win.