Saturday, July 10, 2010

Hjalmarsson Gets an Offer Sheet

The offer sheet has got a nasty reputation in the NHL, as one of the coldest acts of general managing an NHL GM can do, thanks in large part to the Dustin Penner offer sheet, which happened almost three years ago now.  Personally, I like the offer sheets, as much as restricted free agency gives teams a good hold on top prospects, it also guarantees that team compensation if a team covets that player more.

There is also some added security for teams that are fighting against the salary cap ceiling with fitting all of their players contracts for the year, making sure that if they were to lose them to insufficient cap space or another team putting a little excess pressure on the team having trouble by overpaying, compensation would be granted in futures.

That being said, here is what the compensation chart looks like in 2010:
OFFER                           COMPENSATION
$1,020,348 or below             None
Over $1,020,348 to $1,545,981   3rd round choice
Over $1,545,981 to $3,091,963   2nd round choice
Over $3,091,963 to $4,637,944   1st round and 3rd round choice
Over $4,637,944 to $6,183,925   1st round, 2nd round and 3rd round choice
Over $6,183,925 to $7,729,907   Two 1st round choices, one 2nd and one 3rd round choice
Over $7,729,907                 Four 1st round choices

So, this is where the San Jose Sharks come in.  They have obviously decided to put some more pressure on the Chicago Blackhawks, who are sitting on a couple of top end restricted free agents, in Antti Niemi and Niklas Hjalmarsson, and only $3.7 million in cap space remaining.  The Sharks looked at that situation and didn't want to wait for either one to potentially get snapped up via trade to somewhere else, they got their pen in the ink and signed Hjalmarsson to an offer sheet to try and sway him away from Chicago.

The reported offer sheet is said to be a 4-year deal worth $13 million in total, a $3.25 million cap hit per season.  According to the table above, that cap hit would give the Blackhawks the Sharks' 1st round pick and 3rd round pick in 2011. 

Hjalmarsson's numbers were not exceptional in the regular season for the Blackhawks, only 17 points in 77 games with the team, but played solid minutes with the club and made good use of the time he was given as the 4th or 5th defenseman on the team.  In the playoffs, he was far more effective, 8 points in 22 games and he raised his compete level to those of good historical playoff performers, full of compete and sacrifice for the team.  It's almost fitting that the Sharks are going after him, since that was a lot of what they lacked against the Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals.

If we were going to talk market value, moreso for the regular season, the Sharks are prepared to overpay for Hjalmarsson.  I think the greatest factors in market value is age, position and regular season scoring, with some added features like potential and x-factor can given taken into account, but the first three are the most tangible.  The Sharks do have the closest deal in this range to what Hjalmarsson has been offered in Marc-Eduoard Vlasic, who is also 23, plays defense and had 16 points in 64 games with the Sharks.  Vlasic has a cap hit of $3.1 million for the next three seasons.  The Sharks GM said in this article that they feel Hjalmarsson is a top-three defenseman on any team and I suppose if he got the minutes of a top three defenseman, he might have the same points as Kristopher Letang, who will make $3.5 million over the next four seasons and had 27 points in 73 games.  That doesn't sound out of the question at all.

I think this is a good deal, if the Sharks are right about Hjalmarsson.  They don't have plenty of room for error, since Letang only had 27 points, so that's only an increase of 11 points, but Hjalmarsson is supposed to bring some extra playoff gusto, so you could justify that if he brings it.

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