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The Red Wings should offer sheet Rasmus Sandin

How to score the Swedish defenseman from Toronto.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Nashville Predators Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

The Kevin Fiala trade was the spark that started the fire.

After the Minnesota Wild traded the RFA rights to Kevin Fiala to the Los Angeles Kings, the trade market became all the more perplexing. What’s to be done if a player like Matthew Tkachuk wants out? How does a salary cap-strapped team like the Vegas Golden Knights manage their roster? What can be done to poach young, high-potential players from teams with poor salary structures?

Enter two teams at vastly different sides of the playing field: the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. As it currently stands, the Red Wings are beneath the salary floor. That means they’ll need to secure over $14M in salaried deals in order to ice an eligible roster. The Leafs, on the other hand, are mere moments away from entering salary cap hell. They have just a hair over $6M to spend on seven players, including starting netminder Jack Campbell. Casualties are almost certainly to be expected.

With ample cap space and plenty of draft picks to spend, the Red Wings have a unique opportunity. Using the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement and restricted free agency rights, they can send an offer sheet to young defenseman Rasmus Sandin to poach him from Toronto’s roster.

Who is Rasmus Sandin?

Sandin is a Swedish defenseman and the 29th overall pick of the 2018 NHL Draft. At 22 years of age, he’s shown an immense amount of potential in a top-four role. He’s played up and down the team’s lineup, pairing with everybody from Morgan Rielly to Timothy Liljegren. A knee injury shortened his season to just 51 games. Even still, the defenseman was able to thrive throughout the season, putting up some of the most impressive two-way metrics of Toronto’s roster.

Rasmus Sandin’s advanced stats
Table & Data courtesy of Evolving Hockey

Sandin would be an immediate upgrade to Detroit’s top-four. The Red Wings are replete with right-handed defensemen and sorely lack left-handed defensemen of Sandin’s caliber. At 22 years of age, he still hasn’t reached his prime. In fact, his age puts him close to the same timeline as the rest of Detroit’s young core. His physical style of play (88 hits in 51 regular season games), as well as his versatility, make him a perfect pick for Detroit’s lineup. Here’s a great clip of Sandin absolutely obliterating Blake Wheeler:

“But Jake,” you might ask, “how does this offer sheet stuff work, anyway?”

Well, let me tell you!

How offer sheets work

For those unfamiliar with the situation, I bring your attention to the Jesperi Kotkaniemi situation with the Montreal Canadiens and Carolina Hurricanes. Last season, the Hurricanes offered a one-year, $6.1M deal to pending restricted free agent Jesperi Kotkaniemi. The Habs had two options: they could either match Carolina’s offer, or let Kotkaniemi go in exchange for a first round pick and a third round pick. They chose the latter, letting the 21-year-old go and securing two draft picks out of it.

Offer sheets scale with salary. So, if someone were to offer Matthew Tkachuk, say, a $10M deal, they would need to cough up four first-round picks in exchange. Here’s a closer look at the offer sheet structure and compensation for reference:

Offer sheet compensation chart

How to offer sheet Rasmus Sandin

If the Red Wings choose to offer sheet Sandin (and they should), here’s what needs to happen:

  1. The Red Wings need to determine a suitable salary for Sandin. With his current style of play, either a deal in the third-round pick ($1,395,053-2,113,716) or second-round pick ($2,113,716-4,227,437) territory should work. If it seems like a bit of an overpayment, that’s because it is. Traditionally, RFA offer sheets come at the expense of overpaying the player.
  2. Sandin receives the offer sheet and signs it. This is the most significant step. If Sandin doesn’t sign the sheet, nothing happens.
  3. The Maple Leafs have seven days to match the offer. If they don’t, Sandin becomes the newest Wing. If they do match it, Toronto has to overpay a defenseman and might lose their starting goaltender in the process.

Hamstringing a division rival might seem like a petty move — and trust me, it is — but this is more of a failure on Toronto’s part than it is a malicious move on Detroit’s. 50% of the Maple Leafs’ salary cap goes towards five players. When Morgan Rielly’s contract is factored in, things start to look ugly. Taking Sandin off their hands would alleviate one of the many headaches they plan on combatting this offseason. Additionally, it would free up consistent room on the blueline for now 38-year-old Mark Giordano. This could potentially be a win-win for both parties.