There is something called the right of first refusal in the C.B.A., if you read the paragraphs that deal with offer sheets you see this term a lot and it's important to remember.
Recently with Brian Burke and his latest calling out of Kevin Lowe and blaming him for the sky rocketing price of player salaries this argument raised it's ugly head again. I've read bloggers on here say everything from, "Burke was right on! "to, "Lowe had to do what he had to do!" to ,"it's taboo for g.m.s to make offer sheets.".
Well it's impossible to tell you what to believe but "the right of first refusal" is crucial to making an argument either way. Basically it means if what I'm offering your player is too high than you can say no or if you think he's worth it you can say ok. Some other factors go into this, like the amount of time and money you invested developing this player, what you think this player can do in the future, how many injuries you know this player had that weren't really reported on and even the lack of draft picks you have and how strong the draft is that is coming up.
If we take the Dustin Penner offer sheet as a case in point you see a couple things. First these two G.M.'s were friends and now they are most definitely not so there is an argument for the lack of respect G.m.'s have for each other when an offer sheet is made. Lowe felt Penner had the potential to be an elite power forward and signed him to a contract of $4.25 million every year for 5 years, at the time guys you were getting 30 more points a year were getting that kind of money. Lowe was paying for potential though. At the same time he had to give up his first round draft pick (and other picks well), for a while last season it was looking like the Oilers might have ended up in the draft lottery and speculation arose about if they won and the ducks got a number one over all it looks like Burke was a genius in rejecting the offer sheet! Instead the oilers end up with a first round pick from the Pronger trade (in all honesty Burke won the cup because of that pronger trade IMO and should shut it) and paid a guy 4.25 million for 47 points and a minus 12 rating. The only problem in Burkes mind is that because Dustin Penner makes 4.25 with 50 points (roughly) and is -12 than Perry with his 55 point and +12 rating is now worth 5.25 (cap hit) and gets all mad about it. Fair enough.
Did Lowe drive the market into the atmosphere? Well G.M.'s in this league shoot themselves in the foot with every chance they get so the salaries were going to go up because if they get too high and the revenues suck then they see a portion come back to them! Why not pay?? So Lowe didn't cause the salary increase he just sped up the process, for instance offering Vanek Iginla money is nothing short of ridiculous. But if the Sabers use their right of first refusal and accept the offer than the market place has dictated his potential worth, not his actual worth, but his potential worth. I say that because nobody believes you can compare Vanek to the 7 mil guys yet but they think you might be able to in 3 years.
The offer sheets are part of the CBA and as such aren't cheating, they are not against the spirit of hockey... they are simply, in the minds of G.M.'s, a last resort for incompetence.