Rated R

By Chris

Scott Cullen over at TSN.ca has a nice column about restricted free agency and I’m going to steal his nice little chart.

What we’re looking at is the range of compensation teams would receive if they do not match the qualifying offer sheets that their restricted free agents sign with other clubs.

This tidbit from that same article is also pretty interesting.

For example, if we start at the lower end, why not offer some of these guys a contract between $900,000 and $1.3-million, risking a third-round pick if their team won’t match? Steve Bernier, RW, Buffalo; Paul Gaustad, C, Buffalo; Dan Paille, LW, Buffalo; Kevin Klein, D, Nashville; Nigel Dawes, LW, N.Y. Rangers; Ryane Clowe, RW, San Jose; Brooks Laich, LW, Washington

None of these players is going to make a huge difference to your team, but they could very well fit among your top nine forwards or, in Klein’s case, as a regular on the blueline. For the price of a third-round pick, any of those would be a reasonable acquisition.

I like the fact that Cullen decided to throw three Sabres in that example. Mainly because Buffalo has plenty of experience in dealing with offer sheets (and Sabres management and Edmonton General Manager Kevin Lowe are no longer “friends” as a result). Since Bernier, Gaustad and Paille aren’t exactly top-flight restricted free agents, you would think that the Sabres would be in the clear this year and not have to worry about other teams trying to snag their top restricteds. I did…until I saw this chart and remembered how the compensation works. Now I’m thinking that the Sabres may not dodge a bullet after all.

If a team really likes Dan Paille and is willing to pay him over $2.5 million, then they only risk losing a first and third round picks in next year’s draft. It’s not that steep a price to pay considering they’d be getting a 20 goal scorer that can also play the penalty kill. It can be very easy for teams like Toronto, looking to rebuild with a lot of cash to spend, to swoop in and mess with the budget of smaller market teams that operate on their own self-imposed cap (like the Sabres try to do).

The Leafs can afford to spend to the cap ceiling every year and if they’re willing to overpay now for a player like Paille, who they feel can be a part of their core, then it might be worth it for them to give up a few draft picks for a player that can help them now. That’s bad news, especially down the road if the cap keeps going up, for cash-strapped teams like Buffalo who rely heavily on retaining home-grown talent.

Another interesting piece in this process (as pointed out by a friend who I think has memorized the CBA) is that, as stated in that headache-inducing document:

10.4 Draft Choice Compensation for Restricted Free Agents

Clubs cannot acquire picks to use as compensation (with the exception being a Club’s own draft selections that are traded and then re-acquired).

Clubs owing one (1) draft selection must have it available in the next draft.

Clubs owing two (2) draft selections in different rounds must have them available in the next draft.

Clubs owing three (3) draft selections in different rounds must have them available in the next draft.

Clubs owing two (2) draft selections in the same round, must have them available in the next three (3) drafts.

Clubs owing three (3) draft selections in the same round must have them available in the next four (4) drafts, and so on.

When a club owes two (2) or more draft selections in the same round, the signing Club does not elect the years in which such selections shall be awarded to the Prior Club; rather the selections next available will be transferred to the Prior Club (i.e., a club that owes two (2) selections has them available in the next two (2) drafts– that is when they are transferred).

Basically, if a team wants to submit an offer sheet to a player, it needs to have picks available as compensation in the next draft. And they have to be the team’s original picks.

Hypothetically, let’s say the Sabres sign Capitals defenseman Mike Green to an offer sheet in that $3,923,437-$5,231,249 price range. The compensation to the Capitals if Washington doesn’t match the offer would be a first, second and third round pick in the 2009 draft. The problem is that Buffalo doesn’t own a third round pick in that draft because they traded it to the Kings to get Tyler Myers. Darcy Regier can’t just trade Maxim Afinogenov to Vancouver for a third rounder and expect to use that as compensation because that pick originally belonged to Vancouver, not Buffalo. Also, Washington would be stupid not to match.

So, realistically, it’s going to be tough for the Sabres to get into the Offer Sheet game without that third round pick because that pick is used a lot as compensation. Unless the Sabres re-acquire that pick from Los Angeles, it looks like your bubble is officially burst if you were expecting Buffalo to go after Green, Jay Bouwemeester or Valteri Filppula.

On the bright side, the Sabres.com P.R. MachineBlog has some very insightful words from Regier in terms of how much the team will be spending now that the cap has increased to $56.7 million next year.


The NHL and NHLPA today announced the team payroll range for the 2008-09 season.

The lowest payroll limit has been set at $40.7 million, while the upper limit will be $56.7 million. That leaves the midpoint at $48.7 million.

Following Thursday’s developmental camp, Buffalo Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said this concerning the team’s potential payroll for the 2008-09 season.

“We’ll be above at the midpoint,” said Regier. “How far above it? We’ll have to wait and see. But we have some room, but not a lot of room.”

Yeah that pretty much told me nothing. Very insightful, indeed.

What I can tell you is that the Sabres spent $45.023 million last year when the cap was at $50.3 million. The Sabres already have $43.819 million committed in salaries next season to 12 forwards (including The Kaleta), 6 defensemen (including Andrej Sekera and Mike Weber) and one goaltender. That’s not counting the restricted free agents they have yet to sign (Bernier, Gaustad, Paille or Clarke MacArthur) or any other potential moves Darcy and company may make via trade or free agency.

The Sabres do have some money to play with until they reach that $49 million mark. And the team payroll will almost certainly to go up again in 2009-10 despite the cap ceiling if Pominville and Miller are signed to extensions. Expect Buffalo to be very cautious with salaries in a league where it seems owners just don’t seem to learn from past mistakes (See: Outrageous Contracts and Lockout).

One Comment

  1. Anne

    Way to KILL my dream about obtaining Mike Green. Booooooo.