Friday, July 6, 2007

Sabres match Vanek offer sheet

In a practice that has been tacitly outlawed in the NHL in recent off-seasons, the Edmonton Oilers, having been shut out of the unrestricted free agent market thus far, tendered Buffalo Sabres sniper and restricted free agent Thomas Vanek, he of 43 goals and an NHL-leading +47 rating last season, an offer sheet worth $50 million over a span of seven seasons. Having already lost co-captains Daniel Briere and Chris Drury to free agency, the Sabres had to match, if only for the sake of an increasingly bitter fanbase.

Perhaps more interesting than the Vanek debacle is what this means for other restricted free agents on the market. Perhaps the best RFA who has yet to re-sign is New York Rangers star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. After signing Chris Drury and Scott Gomez to deals that each average over $7 million a season and being involved in contract negotiations with Brendan Shanahan that could surpass $4 million, the Rangers are tight against the cap. Wouldn't it be perfect for a team like, say, the Los Angeles Kings to tender King Henrik an offer sheet so exorbidant the cap-wary Rangers can't possibly match?

The loss of draft picks is what is supposed to keep this process in check, but wouldn't nabbing a franchise player like Lundqvist, or even one of the other marquee RFAs, such as Devils sniper Zach Parise, Ducks power forward Dustin Penner or Senators goaltender Ray Emery be worth the loss of a few picks? Additionally, while Kevin Lowe's bid to land Vanek may have fallen through, is the Oilers GM potentially setting himself up to sign RFAs who have elected salary arbitration, including the Kings' Mike Cammalleri, the Rangers' Sean Avery and the Sabres' Derek Roy, among others, whose arbitration awards are likely to skyrocket thanks to Vanek's new contract, rendering many of their teams incapable of re-signing them?

While the flurry of the free agent frenzy may finally be dying out, the commotion surrounding restricted free agents is likely to make the next few weeks intriguing ones.

No comments: