|To Poach or not to Poach||Tweet|
|Written by Ryan Ma|
|Tuesday, 29 April 2008 09:57|
Kevin Lowe, GM of the Oilers, made splashes around the league last season when he made two stunning offers to two restricted free agents during the off-season. Prior to Lowe’s two incidences last off-season, there wasn’t too much drama with restricted free agents except for the Ryan Kesler incident in 2006, but generally GM’s tend to believe that it is an unwritten rule that restricted free agents are hands off to other GMs, until Lowe came along last season that is… Below is a list of the notable eligible restricted free agents taken from the website, www.nhlscap.com along with their current salaries at the end of this season.
Restricted free agents are unlike unrestricted free agents because if a team offers a restricted free agent a qualifying offer, the current team has an opportunity to match or pass on that qualifying offer. If they decide to pass they are rewarded a compensation in the form of draft picks in return for the player.
Compensation is listed as followed:
This first candidate is a little off the wall - Atlanta’s own Kari Lehtonen. The goalie market in the NHL seems to be very limited with many teams already set in between the pipes for next season, which makes Lehtonen a very interesting candidate. Lehtonen won’t bring anything new to his current team this season but could potentially be a great long term goaltender if he finds a home somewhere else.
Lehtonen does have some talent as he was the drafted 2nd overall pick in the 2002 NHL entry draft, and could join an already established list of late-blooming Finnish goaltenders in the NHL. The outlook on the Thrashers isn’t a positive one next season, as the Capitals, Panthers along with the Hurricanes seem to be on their way up, so now might just be the time to pack it in and rebuild through the draft. It wouldn’t make much sense for the Thrashers to keep the $2.2 million Lehtonen, when they have a cheaper option in Ondrej Pavelec just chomping at the bit to start his NHL career. Another alternative is keeping a $1 million per season Johan Hedberg which seems to be more logical than keeping the higher priced Lehtonen. Lehtonen did managed to finish the last 11 games of the regular season with a respectable 2.71 goals against average and a sparkling .928 save percentage, which bodes well for potential buyers, but will it be enough for the injury-prone Lehtonen? The only question that remains is there going to be any teams willing to cough up a few draft picks for a young goaltender that has a career 2.82 goals against average and a .913 save percentage? Ottawa perhaps…
A second candidate that might be poached during the off season could possibly be Anaheim forward Corey Perry, he’s only earning 494k this season while posting 54 points in 70 contests. His mini-breakout season was cut short due to injury, but his performance when he was healthy will certainly earn him a well-deserved raise this off-season. A question that will be running through the minds of Ducks fans will be are they going to lose another young player due to poaching or will the Anaheim management offer him something he will happily accept? The Ducks aren’t in the best salary cap position with roughly $46.863 million tied up to 13 players, but that could significantly change if Scott Niedermayer decides to take another half season vacation or chooses to retire. If another team offers something similar to what Dustin Penner received last season, the Ducks should have enough cap room to keep Perry rather than let him walk.
Another candidate that possibly can be poached by another team in the off-season potentially could be playoff hero Ryan Clowe of the Sharks. Clowe had a bit of an average regular season, with 8 points in 15 contests, but has really turned it up a notch in the post-season with 8 points in 6 contests against the Flames. Clowe’s earning only 600k this season, and will certainly see a significant raise in his salary during the off-season. The Sharks have a bit of cap room with $36.575 million tied to 10 players but keeping all-star defenseman Brian Campbell might tack on another $5-6 million on their salary cap. If a team is willing to take a leap of faith and offer Clowe $4.5 million for 2 or 3 years, the Sharks just might not bite.
Jay Bouwmeester, this season’s leading ice-time recipient, is also scheduled to become an RFA at the end of this season. He is currently making $2.25 million which is vastly underpaid for a person of his stature. Although he hasn’t blossomed into a great offensive defenseman just yet, Bouwmeester certainly has Chris Pronger potential written all over him. A question that might just be brought up this off-season is whether a team is willing to take a leap of faith on him now, and offer him a $4-5 million contract, so that they can reap the rewards later. Before we carry on any further, the Panthers are probably one of the best teams salary cap wise, so there is a good chance that they won’t let their franchise defenseman go that easily.
This scenario might be a very interesting one if the Penguins happen to win the Stanley Cup this year and M.A. Fleury ends up with the Conn Smythe trophy on his mantle. The Pens are in a great salary shape largely due to Malkin making just under $1 million next season, but that price will significantly go up at the end of next season. Would a team be daring enough to push the Pens buttons and make a $10 million per year offer to Fleury and then force the Penguins to have to match that and pay Malkin $10 million at the end of next season, which would leave them with $29 million tied to three players. That could possibly severely handicap the players that the Pens can acquire to surround Crosby and Malkin. Is there a GM out there that is daring enough to cough up 4 first round picks for a potential franchise goalie?
An eye for an eye seems fitting for this scenario. Lowe stirred the pot last season with his antics, which would explain why he signed a few of his RFA early this off-season to prevent any retaliation from annoyed GMs. Getting a few draft picks in compensation for lost RFAs might just be the ideal situation for Lowe this off-season. The Oilers are already comfortable in the forward positions with Penner-Horcoff-Hemsky, Nilsson-Cogliano-Gagner, Moreau-Pouliot*/Schremp-Pisani, Stortini-Brodziak-Glencross and toss in Torres somewhere, they certainly don’t have a demanding need an underachieving $2.2 million Jarrett Stoll in the lineup.
If a team offers him in the vicinity of $3.5 million, I think it would be in the Oilers best interest to pass and pick up a 1st and 3rd rounder back for him, especially when they don’t really need him anyways. The second scenario that Lowe might happily accept is if another team poaches Joni Pitkanen. The Oilers already have Sheldon Souray, Tom Gilbert, Denis Grebeshkov, Steve Staios, Ladislav Smid and Matt Greene under contract for next year so there isn’t a large demand for Pitkanen’s services on the blue line. There seems to be a large market for quick offensive-minded puck moving defenseman in the NHL, so there could be quite a bit of interest for Pitkanen in the off-season. If a team offers in the vicinity of $3.5-4.5 million, it would also be in the best interest of the Oilers to let him walk and pick up a 1st, 2nd and a 3rd round draft pick for Pitkanen. The Oilers are in great position this off-season, as they won’t lose much if their RFA are poached, and if they aren’t they can use those players to further their depth, which isn’t a bad alternative either.
The last scenario that we’ll look at is the most plausible scenario. It deals with the Flyers’ RFA Jeff Carter. The Flyers are in massive salary cap trouble as their crazy spending on contract extensions and free agency has put them above the NHL salary cap before next season has even started. The Flyers have $54.825 million attached to 15 players with players like Jason Smith, Vaclav Prospal, Jaroslav Modry, Jeff Carter, Ryan Poultny, Riley Cote, and Randy Jones all up for UFA/RFA in the off-season.
Jeff Carter is a player that will receive a quite a bit of attention in the off-season as he has registered 132 points in 225 career NHL regular season contests for the Flyers in his young career. Carter has also registered 246 points in 236 contests as a junior player for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds which shows that he does have plenty of offensive potential. About a month ago, I wrote in a column that Carter could be very comparable to Jason Spezza if he had a Dany Heatley playing alongside him. If Carter ends up on team with a dynamic winger (perhaps Atlanta? Or Columbus?) he might just break-out and have a Spezza-like season next year. A small offer of $2 million per season might just push Philadelphia to the brink where they are unable to match that offer. A similar offer like Penner’s last season will certainly see Carter suit up for a new uniform next season. I guess it comes down to which GM has the testicular fortitude to give up a few pieces of their future to get a potential stud in return.
Do you feel that any of these players/scenarios will come to into fruitation, or perhaps you have your own thoughts on alternatives who might be poached? Discuss them here . Check in next time as the Maasquito buzzes around to find another hot topic to discuss.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 April 2008 11:41|