It seems that every summer there are some very intriguing players that are restricted free agents. None was ever more intriguing than Steven Stamkos last year.
Teams have the option of using an offer sheet to try and pry that player away or, if nothing else, force the rights-holding team to match the offer and potentially pay more than they otherwise would have. But nobody ever seems to use it, even if it is a tool at their disposal.
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In total since it was adopted as part of the last CBA, there have been just six players who have been presented with offer sheets. So again, it is rare. The impression seems to be most GMs feel that it is dirty, within the rules or not.
Frankly, it doesn't make much sense to me from afar to not use the offer sheet. Most of the time they will be matched by the team anyway so it can be used as a tool to hurt a rival. Getting back to Stamkos last year, for example. Imagine the Jets, Panthers or Hurricanes all taking a shot with a big offer sheet to Stamkos. The Lightning said they'd match anything sent his way, but those teams could have hurt the Bolts by making them pay more than the $7.5 million he received. And if they don't match then you just signed the premier scorer in the game who is still just a kid.
But there is at least one reason why GMs don't do it more often. If they succeed on the offer sheet, there is a cost that comes in the form of draft picks. The higher the offer sheet, the higher the cost. Going back to Stamkos one final time, if anybody had offered him big money to force Tampa Bay's hand, they would have forfeited four first-round draft picks to the Lightning. That's as big of a deterrent as anything.
So, with all that said, here is a look at the compensation levels this summer for the restricted free agents out there.
• $1,110,249 or below - No Compensation
• Over $1,110,249 to $1,682,194 - 3rd round pick
• Over $1,682,194 to $3,364,391 - 2nd round pick
• Over $3,364,391 to $5,046,585 - 1st round pick, 3rd
• Over $5,046,585 to $6,728,781 - 1st round pick, 2nd, 3rd
• Over $6,728,781 To $8,410,976 - Two 1st Round Picks, 2nd, 3rd
• Over $8,410,976 - Four 1st Round Picks
If you're curious, here is a look at the prime restricted free agents who have not signed extensions with their teams as of yet.