Why the Red Wings Won’t Play in the RFA Offer Sheet Pool

Jumping in a pool after having just eaten is not allowed

With free agency opening in the NHL on July 1st and the list of sought-after unrestricted free agents pretty much only including forwards, I see a lot of chatter about playing around in the offer sheet market for good young defensemen like Jacob Trouba or Seth Jones. These still-unsigned restricted free agents will be eligible to sign offer sheets with teams (provided they don’t go to arbitration), but they’re not impossible to get.

The way it works with RFAs is that if a team signs one to an offer sheet, the team that currently holds his rights has seven days to choose whether they want to match such an offer sheet and give the player the exact same contract or whether they want to allow the signing team to have him, in which case they are compensated with draft picks, depending on how high the compensation goes.

General Fanager has a page laying out those compensation limits, of which there are seven bands.

Less than $1,239,226 - No Compensation

Up to $1,877,615 - Third Round Pick

Up to $3,755,233 - Second Round Pick

Up to $5,632,847 - First & Third Round Picks

Up to $7,510,464 - First, Second & Third Round Picks

Up to $9,388,080 - Two First Round Picks, a Second Round, and a Third Round Pick

Above that - Four First Round Picks

There’s another great feature to General Fanager’s page however. That is they have a list of all teams’ eligibility for offering such compensation levels.

You see, the CBA is very specific on how these offer sheet compensation limits go and in order to even make an offer that fits into one of those bands, you have to have both the available cap space AND the available draft picks to compensate the team, otherwise your offer sheet is nullified.

So What Does This Mean for the Red Wings?

Notice that four of those six bands which include compensation also include a third round pick? Well that pick has to be your own pick according to Article 10.4 of the CBA:

Clubs must use their own draft picks (being those awarded directly to the Club by the League for use by it in the Entry Draft, including such draft picks described in the first clause of this parenthetical that a Club has traded or encumbered, and subsequently reacquired or unencumbered).

This means that, despite the Red Wings owning a third round pick in the 2017 draft thanks to the Maple Leafs’ pick that year being encumbered to them, they lack their own third rounder after having traded it for Dylan Sadowy.

This means that if the Wings want to play in the RFA game for a young unsigned defenseman with real skill, they’re either going to have to offer him such a low salary that even if he signed it the other team would match or such a high salary that they’d be giving up four first round picks and throwing a huge wrench into their cap situation.

I mean, I like Seth Jones, but $9.4M per year for him is juuuuuuuuust a little bit outside what’s sensible.

Other Considerations

The Red Wings could play in the RFA game if they were to make a trade to recover their third-round pick. That pick was sent from San Jose to Arizona on June 20th as part of the trade which brought Maxim Letunov to the Sharks. While Holland has good experiences dealing with Arizona GM John Chayka so far, the push to get that specific pick back makes it slightly harder to pull off.

In general, offer sheets don’t happen because if they’re for a sensible dollar amount, then they’re simply matched and if they’re not for a sensible amount, it doesn’t make sense to make them. In terms of how that works out for the Red Wings, it might keep them from being able to trouble teams for Jones or Trouba, but at least it makes their own dealings with Petr Mrazek a little safer.

[This article was updated at 9:30pm on June 27th. Previously it was not disclosed that Detroit's 2017 third round pick had been traded to Arizona]