Off The Post: Absence of offer sheets to Stamkos, Doughty puzzling.
Off The Post: Absence of offer sheets to Stamkos, Doughty puzzling..
When the Tampa Bay Lightning finally came to terms last Tuesday with Steven Stamkos, the five-year $37.5 million pact ended speculation about the superstar’s immediate future.
Not that there was much chance of the Lightning losing their 21-year-old franchise player; general manager Steve Yzerman would certainly have matched any offer sheet tendered to Stamkos, who had been a restricted free agent.
However, the intriguing aspect to the signing is that it occurred in the complete absence of an offer sheet from any of the other 29 NHL teams. Similarly, no offer sheet has been presented to the Los Angeles Kings for the services of one-time Norris Trophy nominee Drew Doughty.
The lack of initiative from general managers to use this perfectly legal option under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement is puzzling.
Few people in the hockey establishment expected Toronto general manager Brian Burke to take this route. While the Maple Leafs are highly deficient in the centre position and would certainly be bolstered by Stamkos’ presence in the lineup, Burke has developed a well-known vehement opposition to the offer sheet mechanism which was the source of his long-running feud with former Oilers’ GM Kevin Lowe.
While it has been four years since Lowe plucked Dustin Penner away from Anaheim with a five-year $21.25 million offer sheet, while Burke was at the helm of the Ducks, the animosity remains.
“If I had run my team into the sewer like that, I wouldn’t throw a grenade at the other 29 teams and my own indirectly,” said Burke as Penner exchanged his Anaheim sweater for an Edmonton one.
But did Lowe’s offer sheet drastically alter the landscape of the market?
Penner may be overpaid for his 186 points in four seasons since the famous turned infamous signing by Lowe.
However, the signings by the Rangers of Scott Gomez and Chris Drury – also in 2007 about a month before Penner’s deal happened – were far more exorbitant.
And while general managers have appeared to become less frugal in their spending in recent years, especially on free agency day this past July 1, the opening of the vaults appears to be an effect of the rise in the NHL’s salary cap. The ceiling is $64.3 million for 2011-12, $14 million or 28% higher than it was four years ago.
The offer sheet doesn’t inflate the market as much as it constrains teams from signing their existing players. Such was the case one year ago when San Jose forced the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks to match a $14 million, four-year contract to Niklas Hjalmarsson. With the cash-strapped Blackhawks exercising the right to match, they were forced to part ways with goaltender Antti Niemi.
Niemi of course ended up signing with the Sharks, tending the goal for San Jose on route to the Western Conference Final.
Perhaps the tactic is viewed as underhanded in the circles of the general managers’ clique.
However, Lowe – in response to Burke’s criticism of the Penner offer sheet – said “There’s almost some insinuation from managers that because we’re friends, we shouldn’t be doing this to one another. I think our responsibility is not to one another, but is to our fan base and our ownership.”
The NHL’s owners and NHL Players Association toil endlessly over the specifics of the league’s collective bargaining agreement. In the end, all parties have decided that the offer sheet, as frowned upon as it may be to some, is a tool available for disposal to every team.
Perhaps if more GM’s had Lowe’s perspective, the process of signing Stamkos and Doughty would be more expeditious.
Rob Del Mundo is the author of Off The Post, and is a regular columnist at TMLfans.ca
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