Will you match? A look back at the history of NHL offer sheets

Jesse Fuchs is joined by Eric Engels to make sense of the Carolina Hurricanes signing Jesperi Kapkeniemi to an offer sheet and whether the Montreal Canadiens should match the offer.

Not many things bring the chaos and excitement in hockey like an offer sheet.

On Saturday, the Carolina Hurricanes dropped a bombshell when they announced the tendering of an offer sheet to Montreal Canadiens forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Whether it was the value of the offer sheet (one year, $6.1 million, $20 signing bonus) or the Hurricanes’ trolling on social media, reminiscing about the offer sheet the Canadiens tendered to Carolina forward Sebastian Aho in 2019, the news generated buzz around the hockey community.

The Canadiens have seven days to decide whether they will match the offer sheet on Kotkaniemi. If they match, the Canadiens give Kotkaniemi the value of the offer sheet. If not, Kotkaniemi goes to the Hurricanes, and Carolina gives Montreal a first and a third-round draft pick in compensation.

Because of the steep price put on teams who do not match the offer sheet, few are often handed out. In fact, Kotkaniemi’s offer sheet is only the 37th in NHL history and the fifth since 2010.

Offer sheets have evolved since their inception in the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement. Yet they still have a reverberating impact whenever they are announced.

A table showing all of the offer sheets made in NHL history (Source: Cap Friendly)

Below are some of the most memorable NHL offer sheets:

Gary Nylund, 1986 (three years, $620,000)

The first-ever offer sheet in the NHL took place in August of 1986. It involved Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Gary Nylund, who recorded 608 NHL games in his career. By the end of the 1986 season, Nylund played four seasons with the Leafs, posting 57 points. The Surrey, B.C., native and Leafs owner Harold Ballard never agreed on a new contract, resulting in a dispute. The Chicago Blackhawks, in need of a defenceman, decided to enter the fray by utilizing a new mechanism in the CBA known as the offer sheet. The deal was worth three years at $620,000, far removed from the offer Kotkaniemi just signed.

Sensing an agreement couldn’t be reached, the Leafs decided to accept the offer sheet, giving up Nylund, with the compensation being centre Ken Yaremchuk, defenceman Jerry Dupont and a fourth-round draft pick in the 1987 NHL Draft.

Nylund played three seasons with the Blackhawks, which included his best season total in 1986-87 (27 points). Yaremchuk lasted three seasons with the Leafs before going to Europe, while Dupont played 13 games in Toronto, before being sent down to the AHL (Newmarket Saints).

Scott Stevens, 1990 (four years, $5.1M), 1994 (four years, $17M)

Hall-of-Fame defenceman Scott Stevens is the only player in NHL history to receive two offer sheets during his 22-year career.

The first came in 1990 when Stevens was a member of the Washington Capitals. Seeing that the defenceman was a restricted free agent, the St. Louis Blues, in need of a steady blue line, submitted an offer sheet worth four years and $5.1 million. The Capitals decided not to match, giving up Stevens in return for five first-round draft picks.

Stevens spent just one season with the Blues before going to the New Jersey Devils. However, in 1994, the Kitchener, Ont., native received his second career offer sheet. The Blues, his former team, offered up four years worth $17 million. Unlike the Capitals, the Devils matched the Blues’ offer, keeping Stevens.

Stevens ended up playing a critical role on the Devils winning three Stanley Cups (1995, 2000, 2003) with the defenceman capturing the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2000.

Brendan Shanahan, 1991 (three years, $3.015M)

The 1991 off-season was the year of the offer sheet. Seven were tendered from July right up until the start of the season.

The most notable was Brendan Shanahan, playing for the New Jersey Devils at the time. In need of playmaking wingers, the Blues tendered an offer sheet to the Devils for Shanahan, valued at three years and $3.015 million. However, due to the structure of the deal, the Blues did not have the necessary five first-round picks as compensation, due to their previous transaction with Scott Stevens.

The Blues came back with a package that included goalie Curtis Joseph and centre Rod Brind’Amour. The Devils declined, citing their interest in Stevens. With both teams at an impasse, the case went to arbitration, with the arbitrator ruling in favour of the Devils acquiring Stevens, concluding one of the most memorable offer sheet sagas in NHL history.

Shanahan spent four seasons with the Blues before going to the Detroit Red Wings, where he won three Stanley Cups.

Teemu Selanne, 1992 (three years, $2.7M)

As a draft pick of the Winnipeg Jets, Selanne played three years in Finland with the Jokerit development program.

When he returned to North America, he became a restricted free agent, as he did not have a contract. The Calgary Flames attempted to snatch the NHL rookie from the Jets via a three-year, $2.7-million offer sheet. While it was higher than the Jets’ proposal, the organization decided to match it, keeping the young Finnish forward.

The decision paid off for Winnipeg, as Selanne became the highest-scoring rookie in NHL history (132 points), laying the groundwork for a Hall-of-Fame career. His most valuable contract was five years, $19.2 million with the Jets from 1995-1999.

The Finnish Flash played 1451 games in the NHL, recording 684 goals and 773 assists, which includes a Stanley Cup in 2006-07.

Shea Weber, 2012 (14 years, $110M)

The most lucrative offer sheet in NHL history came during the 2012 off-season, involving then Nashville Predators defenceman Shea Weber. The Sicamous, B.C., native was a back-to-back NHL First All-Star Team member and one of the best defencemen in the league.

The Philadelphia Flyers made a mammoth 14-year, $110-million offer sheet for Weber. Five days later, the Predators matched the deal, bringing the defenceman back to Nashville.

This offer sheet surpassed the previous record set by Thomas Vanek and is the largest in NHL history in terms of money value, length of contract and average annual value. The signing bonus of $68 million is a far cry from the latest offer sheet signed by Kotkaniemi, whose bonus is $20.

Weber played four more seasons with the Predators before being traded to the Montreal Canadiens for defenceman P.K. Subban.

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