The Restricted Free Agent Market could be hot…

Since Kevin Lowe got the ball rolling last summer with his play on Dustin Penner, it looks like the restricted free agent market this year could be even hotter. There are many teams desperate to grab a superstar, or potential up and coming superstar, and the offer sheet has become a great way to achieve this. This is even more true for teams who have difficulty attracting unrestricted free agents.

Potentially available this year via the offer sheet includes the following: Corey Perry, Antoine Vermette, Mike Green, Pascal LeClaire, R.J. Umberger, Jeff Carter, Randy Jones, Marc-Andre Fleury, Valterri Filpula, Matt Stajan, Chuck Kobasew, Marek Svatos, Woltek Wolski, Marcel Goc, Christian Erhoff, Joni Pitkanen, and Pier-Marc Bouchard among others.

It goes without saying that teams will do their best to lock up their own RFA’s before July 1st rolls around. That said, some teams will be hard pressed to do this without making some significant moves.

Anaheim for instance, pending the status of Scott Niedermeyer, could be hard-pressed to match any offer made on Corey Perry. Similarly, Ottawa and Philadelphia may have difficulties in deciding who to hand out big contracts too. If Wade Redden takes a pay cut to stay in the nation’s capital, the Sens will still have to pass on certain contract renewals. Even Colorado will have to look to the future and decide who they need to keep. Adam Foote, Peter Forsberg, Jose Theodore, and Joe Sakic could eat up a huge chunk of the payroll previously reserved for the budding Svatos and Wolski.

Keeping all that in mind, and any other potential team building problems, one has to wonder how much these guys are worth to struggling teams. If Dustin Penner got 4.25 million per year, how much is Jeff Carter worth? Would a team like Columbus cough up 5 or 6 million, or more on an offer sheet for him? Would the Leafs do the same for Corey Perry? Could the Panthers use a sniper like Svatos alongside Olli Jokinen? Almost definetly the answer is yes.

This year has seen some young talent develop a long way towards superstardom. Teams will be shaken up this summer to accomodate this growth. Even teams who seem relatively safe from this upcoming jumble need to look to the future. For example, Pittsburgh can likely ill-afford to keep Malkin, Crosby, Staal, Fleury, and potentially Hossa.

The only obstacle in place of this flurry of offer sheets which could be happening in the NHL very soon, is the fact that next summer is poised to be even crazier. Some teams might hold onto their pennies in order to attract even bigger names like: Jordan Staal, Eric Staal, Nikolai Zherdev, Jason Pominville, Joffrey Lupul, Chris Higgins, Anze Kopitar, Kyle Brodziak, Paul Stastny, and of course, Evgeni Malkin.

So now the questions remain, who will move where, and for how much? If a team knows they will likely be unable to match offer sheets, is it smarter to trade that player away and get something immediate in return, or sit on the rewarded draft picks? Should teams who have hot RFA’s (ie. Malkin) trade them this summer for huge returns and not risk losing value? Who would you target to improve your team?