The aura surrounding NHL general managers and offer sheeting restricted free agents is strange but understandable. The question “Why wouldn’t anyone want to push their competitors straight into the ground and leave them weaker because of it?” often crosses my mind. The answer is fairly obvious, as if you do that then most executives will be hesitant to make deals with you later on when your cap situation might need some relief, but it still intrigues me.
The Predators seem to be set on the “make the playoffs at whatever the cost” goal and are unwilling to call up or provide a chance to a prospect like David Farrance or Philip Tomasino. So, the question then becomes, “how does one acquire young scoring talent without the draft, considering it could take players years to move up the ranks with where the Predators are picking?” The answer is pretty unconventional by the already agreed-upon NHL boys’ club standards, but it’s about as simple as possible: offer sheets.
A couple years ago, the Montreal Canadiens offer sheeted the Carolina Hurricanes’ forward Sebastian Aho. The same thing happened to the Predators themselves when the Philadelphia Flyers offer sheeted Shea Weber. Of course, the team wasn’t going to let him go that easily, so David Poile did what he had to do and signed Weber to the contract. Luckily for him, Weber is still playing, and the cap recapture penalty is far less destructive than it was in the old CBA agreement. Otherwise, there would be even more problems with the cap situation—outside of the two $8 million centers that have a hard time producing much of anything.
Fellow On The Forecheck writer and Flyers enthusiast Eamon Smith wrote about a fun scenario where the Flyers offer sheet the budding superstar center in Vancouver, Elias Pettersson. Of course, it would be great if the Predators did that instead, but to widen the field a little bit, I will look at a few other players that would be fun additions to the roster by taking advantage of something that is rarely used.
I think Patrik Laine would be an excellent fit for the team. Not only has he scored 150 goals over 351 games, accounting for over half of his total points, but the idea is pretty reasonable.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are terrible now. After going all-in for a playoff run by acquiring the now-Predator Matt Duchene and fellow former Ottawa Senators forward Ryan Dzingel, they bit the bullet. A combination of coaching issues and players being hurt put them at the bottom of the barrel. If all the signs point to Laine not coming back for next season, why shouldn’t the Predators take a shot at him? It would help both clubs out, as Nashville gets a player who has scored 40 goals in his career and could easily do that again, while Columbus receives a fair amount of picks for their trouble.
Both teams benefit, and while some people might have problems with Laine’s defense, at this point, it doesn’t seem like the fans are going to care. Put Eeli Tolvanen with him on the power play and let them do magic with the puck on both wings. It seems like every problem the Predators have right now, whether it be the direction they’re going in terms of rebuilding or focusing on the Cup, could be helped if Laine could fix their offense. Of course, more problems will arise because it’s sports and no one can have too much fun, but it’s an interesting idea.
Another candidate that could be an excellent piece for the front office to target is Miro Heiskanen. It would help boost the back end of the lineup, even though that’s not the primary concern at this point. Heiskanen proved that he could dominate the game in the 2020 playoff run that the Stars went on, scoring just below a point per game with 26 in 27. That was good for third among all players in the postseason, and as a defender, it makes the feat that much more impressive.
The more fun part about this would be the Stars’ situation if the Predators were to offer sheet Heiskanen. Nashville could offer sheet the young stud defender for $10,907,736 million and lose first-round picks in the process of throwing the Stars into tons of cap problems. Either the Stars get loads of picks and lose their prized blue-line possession, or they get thrust into the abyss trying to work around an almost impossible cap situation. It doesn’t help that along with that contract, the front office in Dallas still needs to allocate funds for players like Jason Robertson, who will surely be asking for a raise from his measly $795,000 after a Calder Trophy-worthy season.
This scenario seems like another win-win for the Predators. A stud defender comes your way who will get to play with one of Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, or Ryan Ellis and learn from them. We’d also get to see even more elite puck-moving offense generation from defenders, which is extremely fun despite the overall criticism of the system. Alternatively, the Predators keep their picks and force a massive division rival into intense cap trouble.
Do you know what I love? Chaos. And nothing screams chaos more than offer sheeting the stud forwards on the team that just knocked you out of the playoffs. As I mentioned earlier in the article, the most recent offer sheet was Montreal getting involved with Aho, and, obviously, he signed it. It would create even more tension between the teams and fanbases if the Predators’ front office decided to go after the young goal-scoring forward.
In reality, if the Predators were to offer sheet Svechnikov, I highly doubt he would leave the organization that drafted him and is far closer to a Stanley Cup than the Predators are. It’s essentially the same situation as Dallas and Heiskanen. Throwing the Hurricanes into cap hell or even just forcing them to sign Svechnikov for more than they might feel comfortable with is probably the road to go down. They aren’t going to be back in the division next season, so there is a little less motivation to push them to the brink of cap trouble.
Or, if we’re basing this in a fantasy world, the Predators should offer sheet Svechnikov enough to make him want to play for the team. Targeting a forward with a killer scoring instinct should be of utmost importance to the front office. Svechnikov has the shot, the hockey IQ, the ability to create offense for himself and his teammates, and he can play solid defense. His numbers speak for themselves, and while he might have had a down series by his standards against the Predators, everyone still felt his presence.
It would be fun to market him with the Predators, just like it would be for Laine. Forsberg and Svechnikov are the only two players to have ever completed lacrosse-style goals in the NHL, and to have that kind of creativity in the top six is a dream come true for most of the Predators faithful. It would also be another addition to the seemingly large amount of young Russian players either on the roster or in the pipeline. Yaroslav Askarov, Egor Afanasyev, Semyon Chistyakov, Yakov Trenin are the main four, and Svechnikov could make the Russian Five again more variety and (probably) less skill and (most likely) more minor achievements.
Svechnikov could bring a whole new dynamic to Predators forwards, and as of right now, a change in dynamic is what the core needs.
Conor Garland of the Arizona Coyotes is the final player I would be interested in seeing a Predators offer sheet thrown towards. With the Coyotes having to forfeit their first-round pick in 2021 due to holding illegal pre-draft physical fitness tests, they could be in search of any way to reacquire the capital. An offer sheet to a forward that appeared to break out this season would be an excellent way to do that. The Coyotes are in an interesting stage right now, as they grace the middle of a reasonably weak Pacific Division and are moving into the Central in the upcoming season with the arrival of the Kraken. They aren’t anywhere close to being a Stanley Cup contender, but with their lack of picks, it’s hard to accelerate the rebuilding process.
Garland is a small forward, but that isn’t uncommon for Nashville in the slightest. Viktor Arvidsson and Rocco Grimaldi are two of the shortest players in the entire NHL, and both have been able to find success in the lineup. Bringing in another undersized forward may not be optimal for some organizations, but a team like the Predators could use Garland’s quick thinking and creativity, as well as his transitional capabilities, to enhance their offensive chances. As we’ve all seen in the Stanley Cup playoffs, skill is more significant than size. Brayden Point plays a similar game to Conor Garland, and landing a player like that could make an astronomical difference. There are some important differences between the two, the main one being Point controls play much better than Garland does. However, that does not mean Garland can’t get close to his level.
A player like Garland on a roster full of great-skating defenders and not a lot of great-skating forwards could prove to make a big difference in the long run. He doesn’t have the shot like Laine and Svechnikov or the raw talent like Heiskanen, but make no mistake, Garland is the real deal. Considering how underrated he is around the hockey community, the Predators could probably sneak away with a robbery if they chose to go this route.
Any of these four players could move mountains in the Predators’ night-to-night lineup. As I stated at the beginning of this piece, general managers are cowards, and none of this would ever happen unless the stigma around using something that is sitting in the open to your advantage changed. However, the possibilities that stem from topics like these are precisely what the hockey community needs.
There aren’t enough massive shake-ups in the NHL to make anything marketable. With the Aho debacle, the hockey world went wild. The anticipation was incredible, even though most fans knew he would be signing back with Carolina. A new TV deal with ESPN and TNT, along with a massive offseason full of huge changes and unexpected turns of events, is precisely what the sport as a whole needs to grow.
It won’t happen, sadly. But, if Poile feels like going all out because his career is slowly winding down, why not go for it?