In 2006, Ryan Kesler signed a 1 year, $1.9 million offer from the Flyers. Then-GM Bob Clarke was crushed by the hockey world for violating a “gentleman’s agreement”, in which teams wouldn’t sign other team’s restricted free agents. Fans were calling for their team to try and poach a young player from the Flyers. People were wondering if the Canucks would match $1.9 million for a kid who only had 23 points in 82 games in a new, unknown, salary cap era. (Hindsight would show it was a good move by Vancouver.) It was the first offer sheet to an RFA in almost eight years (Carolina’s offer to Sergei Fedorov in 1998). In 1997, Clarke also signed Tampa’s Chris Gratton to a 5 year, $16.5 million offer, with a $9 million signing bonus, fully knowing that Tampa did not have the finances to match that type of offer.
As years passed, more players have been tendered offer sheets. There have been six players to sign offer sheets since the lockout, with only one (Dustin Penner) changing teams. Yet, people still believe signing Restricted Free Agents is an unwritten no-no. The rule has been in place for over 25 years (with changing compensation), and if it is so unpopular, it would have been repealed by now.
So why is this relevant today? (more…)