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First of all, let me preface this by saying I don't like the idea of offer sheets to Restricted Free Agents. I think it drives up the price of business in the NHL, I think it is going to force teams to take players to arbitration whom otherwise could have gotten deals made and I think it's going to cause prices to inflate in the NHL once again. The CBA, as it stands in the NHL, was to create pariety and equality amongst teams and, for the most part, it has done so. The biggest portion that I do not agree with is that of Restricted Free Agency, mostly because it gives the General Managers a different, more competitive role.

That being said, everything that Kevin Lowe has done this off-season has been legal and has been very shrewd. Many, including myself, think it an underhanded move. But, in reality, it is a completely legal tactic of improving his team. Many conspiracy theorists believe that he is offering these contracts to players in the thought that he won't actually get them. But consider who he was offering at. Thomas Vanek. Yes, the contract was FAR overvalued for him, but imagine if he continues to improve as he did last year? He led the league in plus/minus in his second year in the league and was a 40 goal scorer in his second year in the league. If he continues to improve, the $7M per year will seem like a steal, especially if the salary cap and max contract keep rising. Penner, on the other hand, is an interesting player in and of himself. Yes, $4.5M is a lot of money to spend on a player who only scored 45 points last year. But look at his stats. In his first full season in the NHL, he was one goal shy of 30 goals. He has proven his worth, both offensively as well as defensively with the Ducks and has proven to be a near immovable object in front of the net. Is the contract overvalued for what he has done? No doubt. But will it be 2 or 3 years down the road? Probably not.

Also, look at the teams that Lowe made these moves against. The Sabres were caught napping with both Briere and Drury and were dragging their feet with Vanek. There was every indication that Lowe had an opportunity (no matter how small) to pull a fast one on the Sabres and improve his team and he took it. With the Ducks, Lowe managed to do a couple things in one fell swoop. First, he forced the Ducks and Niedermeyer's hand. Should Burke match the offer, he's either going to need to clear up cap space or hope and pray that Scott Niedermeyer retires. Either way, they could be losing a big part of their team. In my opinion, I think Lowe targeted these two RFAs on these teams specifically because of their initiative in re-signing their players and cap space respectively. By doing this, Lowe not only sends a message to his fans of "Yes, we missed out on free agents, but we're still trying to get better" as well as sending a message to the league of "Make up your minds or we will for you."

Another curious thing that not too many people are talking about is the players' roles in all of this. You can hardly blame Vanek and Penner for signing these offer sheets, but neither player had to sign. In fact, Vanek's agent was openly approaching teams, asking them to tender him an offer sheet. It does, ultimately, come down to the player's discretion as to whether or not to sign these sheets, and I find it interesting that Lowe is getting a bad rap for offering them, but Vanek and Penner are not for signing them.

When it comes down to it, I don't like the new rules in the CBA involving Restricted Free Agency. I don't like what the offer sheets have the potential to do to the landscape of the league and I don't like the freedom that the GMs have to use them. At the same time, however, as a fan of neither Edmonton, Buffalo or Anaheim, I must applaud Kevin Lowe for doing all that is within his power to improve his team. Though a move that many consider underhanded, Lowe has shown to the fans and to the owners of Edmonton that he is willing to do whatever it takes to field a winning team.
Filed Under:   Free Agents   NHL   Ducks   Sabres   Oilers   Kevin Lowe  
July 27, 2007 2:34 PM ET | Delete
Cmon, you can't expect a guy like vanek 23 years old to turn down an offer of 7 mill a year do you.I would put more blame on Lowe or Buffalo's management than Vanek at this point.
July 27, 2007 3:39 PM ET | Delete
Well written blog. I agree with 90% of what you say. You have some very good points here.
July 27, 2007 4:03 PM ET | Delete
I like thath Lowe has challenged the system in an attempt to target young talented players and better his team. Technically these players ARE free agents. If teams don't want to negotiate until the last second, it's their own fault, and they shouldn't blame another GM for stepping in and pressing the matter. Now, if you have a talented young player coming up on RFA status, and you want to keep him, you have to treat him like a UFA and make an attempt at resigning them at a price you want and not let another team dictate the market.
July 27, 2007 5:02 PM ET | Delete
It's good that people like Kevin Lowe use, challenge, and bend the CBA. It will only make the CBA better next time around.
July 27, 2007 5:45 PM ET | Delete
Can you please explain how on earth it's going to drive up salaries?Salaries are linked to revenues, and it's impossible to drive up salaries without the revenue also increasing. Not only that, but when revenues go up, it's not like teams can afford more high quality players at a set price... it's the price for those quality players that increases (and we saw it this year, so you can't blame that on Lowe).What making an RFA offer does do is change the distribution of where the money goes. It doesn't make salaries in general increase, it just bridges the gap between what RFA's make compared to UFA's. It doesn't drive up the salaries for everyone, it just drives up the salaries for RFA's.And because salaries are going up in one area, they need to go down somewhere else because of the linkage. So if a team has to pay an RFA $4mil instead of $2mil, that means that can only pay a UFA $5 mil instead of $7mil.It's simply a redistribution.
July 28, 2007 3:50 AM ET | Delete
That is where we differ, dawgbone. I don't believe it is a redistribution because, when it comes time for other RFAs that consider themselves to be comprable to a Vanek or Penner, they'll be asking for that type of money. Also, it drives up the cost of arbitration as well, because the arbitrators decide based on what players comprable to the player in question make. Now, say a 40-45 point per year player goes to arbitration this year, they can point towards Dustin Penner to make their case, driving their salary up in price. Also, I don't believe that what RFAs begin to make is going to dictate what UFAs make. If a team can only pay $5M compared to $7M, I find it very hard to believe that they would be able to sign the UFA in question.I do agree with hockeyisgd, however. This will make the CBA better next time around. Hopefully the NHL sees the potential problem this could cause and can at least regulate it next time around.
July 30, 2007 11:31 AM ET | Delete
bc, it is a redistribution though.Eventually, it all balances out (based on the current system). There is only so much in salaries that can be spent, and if one group of players starts taking more, that leaves less for another group.I agree, RFA's next year (Phaneuf, Getzlaff, etc) will ask for more money based on what guys like Vanek and Penner are getting. I agree 100% on that. And because of that, teams like Anaheim and Calgary are going to have a hell of a time picking up a big name UFA... that's not necessarily a bad thing though.If the cap is around $50 mil again next year, if those high profile RFA's get that money, that's less money these teams can spend elsewhere. Also, if teams want to shell out $8 mil on a UFA, they might lose an RFA to an offer sheet.If these RFA's are making $5 mil instead of $2 mil, that $3 mil difference has to come from somewhere. It won't be possible to sign the Drury's and Gomez's to $7 mil deals as well as the Phaneufs to $5mil deals. What you will see is a redistribution.There isn't an infinite number of $$$ available to be spent. There is a finite amount, so if you spend more in one area, you spend less in another.The prices for RFA's and UFA's cannot both go up at the same time if the cap does not go up. And if the cap does go up, we've already seen that it's the prices for UFA's that go up dramatically... this may very well change that.
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