In theory, the restricted free-agent offer sheet would be the sexiest thing about the NHL offseason since the Phuthbert beach candids.
If unmatched, they disperse high-end (and youthful) talent throughout the League; giving one team a foundational player and another team draft picks with which to build.
If matched, they can dramatically affect a team's cap situation, and dramatically increase the animosity between teams. To the first point, please recall San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson sending a four-year, $14 million offer sheet to Nicklas Hjalmarsson of the Chicago Blackhawks; a move that eventually led to Chicago cutting ties with goalie Antti Niemi and the Sharks gobbling him up.
To the second point, five words: Penner. Lowe. Burke. Barn. Fight.
Alas, RFA offer sheets are scarce thanks to the good old boys network of GMs and owners who have an unofficial hands-off policy when it comes to their restricted free agents — and thanks to the ever-present threat of retribution, like Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi's Dirty Harry act from three years ago: "Go ahead and make our day. If you sign our guy, we're coming back with both barrels firing."
The Boston Bruins and the deep pockets of Jeremy Jacobs would appear to have the ammunition to scare off any offer sheet suitors, even though the threat of an offer sheet probably turned Phil Kessel into a Toronto Maple Leaf. But they also have a precarious goaltending situation, thanks to Tim Thomas's decision to take his tea party and go home, and Tuukka Rask's restricted free-agent status.
Which is why tendering Rask an offer sheet makes every bit of sense for a team in search of a starting netminder, be it the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Tampa Bay Lightning. If it actually could happen.
Injuries aside, the Finnish netminder is talented and seasoned enough to start for the vast majority of NHL teams. While the 2009-10 season may have ended in an unceremonious exit from the playoffs, Rask started 39 regular season games, posting a 1.97 goals against average and .931 save percentage, proving himself capable of handling a full season of work.
The time is now for Rask to take it to the next level. With Thomas out of the picture, Rask will get a chance to settle into more of a rhythm, knowing he will start close to 60 games if healthy. At times in his career, Rask has shown lapses in focus, resulting in inconsistent play. But that lack of focus stemmed from his not knowing when he would play next, which won't be an issue moving forward.
Here are the compensation levels for the 2011-12 season, via Mike Colligan. The Bruins have 19 players under contract and $9.97 million in space under the current cap, according to Cap Geek. So an offer sheet might not put the screws to them, but forcing them to match could have implications down the line.
Down the line, in this case, would be 2013-14, when Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand are restricted free agents.
Thomas didn't do the Bruins any favors. He did agent Bill Zito a favor, given that he represents both Thomas and Rask. But not the Bruins. From the Boston Herald:
Rask, who like Thomas is represented by agent Bill Zito, is a restricted free agent and would appear to have gained some negotiating leverage with Thomas' decision, though the Bruins could take him to arbitration. Still, going through the often-contentious process of arbitration is probably not the way Chiarelli would like to deal with Rask, who just finished a two-year, $2.5 million contract.
Will anyone make Rask an offer? Probably not, given the lack of action for Drew Doughty and Steven Stamkos last summer. The play, in the end, will either be a long-term deal before arbitration or a short-term one in arbitration to avoid someone taking a run at him.
Which really isn't "strategically targeted crazy offer sheet" fun. At all.