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Quick Hits: The Reader Questions Edition

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In Red Wings Land

Something new for this one today. We got an email from reader Greg who wanted to open discussion on a couple points so I figured we’d give that a go today.

Is there anything to be made of Mantha not filing for arbitration? It seems Yzerman has said publicly he is confident they will get a deal done. But what is the motivation for not filing for arbitration versus Bertuzzi and many others in the NHL filing for it?

As a player optimist, I think the thing to read into Mantha letting the arbitration deadline pass without filing is good faith in a deal being done quickly, but the cutthroat read on it is that it allows him leverage that 26 other RFAs (including Bertuzzi) did not claim.

The first side of the coin of a player electing arbitration is that it guarantees him the opportunity to have his case heard by an independent authority who sets the compensation as “fair” after hearing all arguments. If the arbitrator awards an amount below a certain threshold (about $4.5M this year), the club is required to sign that deal. On the flip side, a player who elects arbitration may no longer sign an offer sheet to play with another club and is giving the team the choice of a 1 or 2-year deal (although in Mantha’s case it could not have been two because those deals cannot extend past when a player would have become a UFA).

Mantha is the highest-paid RFA who elected not to file for arbitration, but he also elected not to file arbitration against a team that is not in the slightest bit vulnerable to a predatory offer sheet (more on that in question two). The worst-case scenarios in Mantha not filing for arbitration is it gives him the ability to hold out for a contract like Athanasiou or sign an offer sheet and force Detroit to either match or accept draft picks for letting him go. I don’t think ether is likely.

In Bertuzzi’s case, I feel the unknowns going into next season drove his filing and the filings of so many others. This gives him the assurance that he’ll have a contract going into next season and there’s a decent chance it won’t even hit the walk-away threshold. I anticipate his contract will be signed before the hearing scheduled for the 25th starts.

Is there a case to be made for the Wings or other teams offer sheeting someone this offseason? I know it takes a player to sign an offer sheet too as I believe there were examples of players being offered and not signing last year and the Aho signing actually occurring. But discussing the cost/benefit analysis of doing this. Guys like Ethan Bear, Vince Dunn, Travis Dermott, Eric Cernak, etc. Would any of them fall into a cost that would only cost the wings a 3rd round pick compensation and are they worth it? In terms of the dollars and possible hard feelings it might cause with other GMs. Tampa and Edmonton obviously having close relationships with Yzerman. Based on offer sheet costs in terms of draft picks, I would probably only consider doing one at the 3rd round pick cost level if I were Yzerman at this stage of the Wings development. I’d love to see people’s perspectives on if this is worth it and who might be had for the associated cost.

The constant case with offer sheets is that they’re rare not only because they can cause hurt feelings among GMs, who are each others only trade partners, but also because it’s very difficult for a circumstance to call for it.

Any GM signing contracts has to balance his own cap and his own roster. This is hard enough to do and signing players to outrageous contracts is antithetical to that. Unfortunately in most cases, a GM signing a player to an offer sheet is required to find a way to make it a signing that is sensible to his own team but not palatable to the team holding that player’s rights. It’s really hard to sign a guy for a smart contract when another team can simply match that offer and say thanks for doing all the hard work. Without that, you have to sign him to a dumb contract AND you have to give up draft picks for the privilege of doing so.

However, we’re in an unusual time with the flat salary cap and there are several teams with cap crunches that can open up the opportunity to hit the rare combination of a smart contract that won’t be matched.

Bear in Edmonton had a good first full year and would be Edmonton’s 23rd (and final) roster player. They have little space, but not so little that they couldn’t make matching a sheet work unless Yzerman wanted to gamble on him living up to an overpayment. Dunn in St. Louis and Dermott in Toronto are basically in the same spot. Cernak is a similar type player, but Tampa is the most-strapped team right now and Anthony Cirelli is another name that comes up in this consideration.

The thing that works against these predatory offer sheets that places teams between a rock and a hard place is that the price of reclaiming cap space has generally been more attractive than the draft pick compensation that such offer sheets would return.

Take a look at what Vegas did in signing Alex Pietrangelo earlier this week. That deal temporarily put Vegas over the 10% bonus cushion and forced them into a 24-hour window where they HAD to clear cap space or risked having the league refuse to register the deal on their new defenseman. It took only a short time for Vegas to make that space by shipping Nate Schmidt to Vancouver in return for a 3rd round pick in 2022.

In essence, Vegas essentially got the same compensation that an unmatched offer sheet for guys like Bear, Dunn, Demott, or Cernak would bring for trading away a different player to make cap space to fit Pietrangelo.

Theoretically all of the players you mentioned are on teams that are vulnerable to an offer sheet, but there are alternate routes to making cap space which clever GMs can use that make it that much more difficult to hit the sweet spot of a contract that makes sense which won’t just get matched.

In terms of considering player like the defenders you mentioned is that I think the additions of Merrill and Stecher fill two roster spots with guys who are comparable to these RFAs (not exactly the same, but I think they’re all in the ballpark at least). These are players Detroit needs, but mostly they are in need of solid top-pairing talent and the chances that an offer sheet will bring that are about as high as they are with the two guys that Detroit already signed, while the best chances for this remain in the prospect pipeline.

Now, if we’re talking Mikhael Sergachev, I think that’s a real interesting case where the risk/reward plot gets more favorable.

Around the NHL

Lots of people happy for Joe Thornton continuing his career. Not me. Screw him.