Should the Rangers offer sheet Leon Draisaitl?

Jeff Gorton (Getty)

What do Geoff Courtnall, Scott Stevens, Brendan Shanahan, Adam Graves, Petr Nedved, Sergei Federov, and Dustin Penner have in common? They each signed an offer sheet while they were a Restricted Free Agent in the NHL.

Worthy Talent

Every year fans of teams speculate as to what it would take to sign another team’s restricted free agent to an offer sheet only to be disappointed and I can all but guarantee you that after reading this post here within a few days you too will be disappointed. This scenario has about as good of a chance of happening as Pierre McGuire growing a mullet.

The Edmonton Oilers recently signed star Center and team Captain Connor McDavid, possibly the best player in the game, to an 8 year $106 million deal with an AAV of $13.5 million. That’s roughly 18% of the teams salary cap but as time goes on and the NHL raises the cap, that contract won’t seem so bad in the backend of the deal. In 2012, the Pittsburgh Penguins signed Sidney Crosby to a 12 year, $104.4 million dollar deal, roughly averaging out to $8.7 million at the time but also representing around 15% of the Penguins salary cap. The following season, Pittsburgh signed Evgeni Malkin to an 8 year, $76 million dollar deal set to begin in the 2014-15 season that carried an AAV of $9.5 million, representing 13% of the Penguins cap at that time, both contracts seemingly worked out for the Penguins organization in the long run as the cap continued to rise.

Now comes Edmonton Oilers Center Leon Draisaitl, the teams 21 year old 6’1 215lb speedy, smart and scoring 2nd Center who they drafted 3rd overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Draisaitl has been a big part of the Oilers success lately having scored 29G-48A-77pts in his sophomore season with the Oilers over an 82 game span which followed up his rookie season where he came in at 19-32-51 in 72 GP. Draisatl also was one of the top scorers in the postseason this year posting 6G,10A,16pts in 13 playoff games for the Edmonton Oilers, outpacing McDavid’s 5-4-9 in the playoffs.

After the $13.5m that the Oilers dedicated to McDavid, the focus is now on locking up Draisaitl for the long term. Reports have Draisaitl seeking in the range of $9.2m over 8 years. A similar comparison to Draisaitl is St. Louis’ Vladimir Tarasenko who recently signed an 8 year, $60 million deal for an AAV of $7.5m coming off a 37 goal, 73 point season in the season he turned 24 years old. Draisaitl is 3 years younger and a center, not to mention that the cap has risen since then, so $9 million is fair value for a player of Draisaitl’s caliber.

While McDavid’s deal was an extension that will start in the 2018-19 season as he has another year left on his ELC, Driasatl is set to become a Restricted Free Agent July 1, 2017. While the Oilers currently have $16 million in cap space available for next season, as well as 22/23 roster players under contract, the big issue comes in 2018-19 when the team begins to pay Connor McDavid his massive $13.5 million. What if the cap doesn’t rise? Even though Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli has stated that he will match any offer sheet tendered to Draisatl, it won’t stop teams from kicking the tires and there does come a certain price at which Chiarelli may look at the 4 1st round picks his team would receive in exchange for Draisaitl signing an offer sheet and hopping a plane to another city as a pretty good deal.

That’s the supply, now here comes the demand. The New York Rangers recently traded away 1st line center Derek Stepan and while both Alain Vigneault and Jeff Gorton view Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes as suitable 1A/1B Centers, let’s not kid ourselves here. In a Metropolitan Division with centers such as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and John Tavares and top end talent like Alexander Ovechkin and Artemi Panarin, the New York Rangers need to stop kidding themselves that Rick Nash and Henrik Lundqvist as well as depth are a suitable answer to those anymore. Not to mention the New Jersey Devils recently drafting Center Nico Hirschier and Philadelphia drafting Nolan Patrick as well as having Claude Giroux.

At a certain point, all the depth in the world is great and rolling 4 lines with a fast up-tempo pace and an all-world goalie sounds good on paper but ultimately isn’t enough. Looking back on the past five cup champions (Pittsburgh, LA and Chicago), each of those teams were led up the middle. Even if he becomes a true number one center, Mika Zibanejed is not in the same league as the previously mentioned all-world players and Rick Nash isn’t the player he used to be. That leads me to Nash, who’s $7.8m the Rangers will see come off the books after 2017-18. That leaves the New York Rangers with a need that they can’t fill via trade or in Free Agency.

CAP SPACE GALORE

The New York Rangers currently have $15.6 million in cap space after re-upping Brendan Smith at $4.35 million. If Kevin Klein is to retire which most reports say, that will give them another $2.9 million in cap space leaving them with $18.5 million in 2017-18. The Rangers needs after signing Brendan Smith to shore up their blue line heading into Free Agency is to address the void left by Derek Stepan up the middle and possibly add top 6 talent as well as maybe adding another Defenseman and a back-up goalie. They will also be responsible for re-signing Zibanejed as well as Jesper Fast who are both also Restricted Free Agents. You can see Zibanejad come in at around $5 million and Jesper Fast will cost roughly $1.5m, add in a backup goalie at around $1 million and you’re left with $11 million in cap space.

The defense at the moment, consists of Ryan McDonagh, Brendan Smith, Brady Skjei, Anthony DeAngelo, Nick Holden and Marc Staal. The top six forward talent consists of Mika Zibanejad, Rick Nash, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes and JT Miller along with youngsters Pavel Buchnevich, Jimmy Vesey, Jesper Fast and Matt Puempel to battle for 3rd line minutes and a group of Michael Grabner, Lias Andersson, Nicklas Jensen to round out the 4th line along with any low cost signing Jeff Gorton can come up with. The Rangers are seemingly re-stocked as far as defensemen are concerned in the pipeline as seen in the Prospect Development Camp with youngsters like Sean Day, Ryan Graves, Neal Poink, Alexei Bereglazov and Sergey Zborovisky so the contract of Holden ($1.9m) is seemingly expendable. Not to mention the ultimate “In Case Of Emergency Button” of moving Marc Staal’s contract if necessary. Not to mention the further cap relief the Rangers will experience after Nash’s money comes off the books, the Rangers are sitting pretty as far as cap flexibility thanks to Jeff Gorton’s recent moves.

 

In comes Draisaitl… Will Peter Chiarelli balk and walk away at potentially having a team of just McDavid and Draisatl for years to come and having to eventually trade away the entire supporting cast? Look what the Penguins went through after loading up so top heavy on Crosby and Malkin and also the Chicago Blackhawks after inking Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to mega-deals. The rumored going rate for Draisaitl is $9 million as of now, which Chiarelli will look to talk down, but what if the New York Rangers satisfied their need for a top line Center and went out and offer sheeted Draisatl for a cool $11 million…… Let that sink in for a moment… $11,000,000 for a 21 year old Center who scored essentially 30-50-80 last season and will only get better…. Now let this sink in, offer him 7 years of that (the max the Rangers can offer). Is it tough to stomach in year one? They’ll have to make a few sacrifices, but the ability to roll 4 strong lines and two above average Defensive pairings will still be there… the difference being they’ll be rolling 4 lines that includes a bonafide top line Center.

Simple question…. When have the Rangers had talent like this?

Who plays like this?

Who can score in the playoffs like this?

Oh yeah… and how good did he look with Mats Zuccarello on his wing in the World Cup?

LET. THIS. SINK. IN….

At the age of 21, Leon Draisatl was fifth in the NHL among all centers in points. Ahead of Auston Mathews, Tyler Seguin, Ryan Getzlaf, Evgeni Malkin and even John Tavares. The Rangers have not had a Center of that caliber since Mark Messier…. and Draisaitl is 21 years old. His numbers will only increase through the entire length of that contract. If successful, the New York Rangers will have a top five first line center inked for the next 7 years leading into his prime, not past his prime. Not to mention that even after the 2017-18 season, the Rangers RFA’s include JT Miller, Kevin Hayes and Jimmy Vesey who’s cumulative cap hit after that will all but be covered by Nash’s money coming off the books as well as another window to buyout Marc Staal and not to even factor in another rise in the salary cap, so the numbers are not insane in any realm of possibility.

The Rangers have the space and the surrounding talent to make this move. They have the need for a top line center that is not available in this years UFA class and won’t be available in next year’s unless John Tavares goes AWOL on the Islanders. Even then would you rather a 22 year old Draisaitl who’s going to put up the same if not more points than Tavares or a 28 year old John Tavares? I’d go with the 22 year old.

This is an aggressive move…. let me repeat, this is not a rumored move. I do not know of any thinking in the Rangers front office of this move. But $11,000,000 is enough to send Peter Chiarelli and the Edmonton Oilers back to the draft board in order to build around McDavid and $11,000,000 is the going rate in today’s NHL for a top line Center that performs well in the playoffs, plays fast and physical, and can match up against the ever growing load of talent building up in the Metropolitan Division.

So simply think about it… Is it really insane?

Oh yeah, Pierre McGuire said on Leafs Lunch that “teams will offer sheet Draisaitl if McDavid signs for $13.5 million.”

Guess what?

McDavid signed for $13.5 million.

 

Offer Sheet Gone Bad

Now lastly… the offer sheet doesn’t always work out especially in the Rangers case. Back in 1997 then Rangers GM Neil Smith presented Colorado Avalanche Captain Joe Sakic with an offer sheet for three years and $21 million on the heals of Mark Messier leaving for Vancouver.

Colorado had seven days to match the offer and if they didn’t the Rangers would’ve surrendered five first round picks. All in all this was arrogance on the Rangers behalf, as the reason for the Rangers picking to go after Joe Sakic had to do with Colorado’s weak financial standing (remember there was no salary cap back then) Avs CEO said in the Daily News “They were under the belief that we weren’t going to be able to pull it off.

The miscalculated our vigilance and wherewithal” While the Leon Draisaitl scenario is different as the Rangers wouldn’t be taking advantage of the Oiler’s financial situation, Edmonton like all other NHL teams have a cap floor and ceiling and a level playing field. The Avalanche re-signed Joe Sakic, matching the offer and then sent a fax to Rangers GM Neil Smith and president Dave Checketts of Nelson Rockefeller flipping the bird. How’s that for backfiring?