Monday, June 22, 2015

The Dougie Hamilton Offer Sheet

There's a lot of chatter out there in the interwebs about how much trouble the Boston Bruins are in, when it comes to how much space they have against the salary cap ceiling. On Tuesday, they find out just how much trouble they are in, as the salary cap ceiling number is to be made official.

A lot of teams are smelling blood in the water, as they start to circle around some of the team's prized free agents, namely defenseman Dougie Hamilton, who is up for restricted free agency this Summer.

Hamilton is a budding superstar on the back end and at 22 years old, he is on the cusp of getting into the prime of his career.  He has the talent to work the scoresheet offensively and he has the size to do it in his own end of the ice, making him into the quintessential franchise defenseman.  A prize, which has a lot of teams licking their chops.

By my own guesstimation, thanks to the online salary cap websites that now exist, I have the early Summer cap figure in for the Bruins at $61.2 million, with only 15 players signed on: nine forwards, four defensemen and a goalie tandem.  Last year's salary cap ceiling for 23 players was only $69 million and the early indication that the 5% increase may not be entirely the case, leaving the Bruins very little to work with for five to eight players to sign.

Enter the offer sheet.  Once free agency hits, teams do have the chance to negotiate with restricted free agents, but the first line of defense for the team with the rights to these players is the offer sheet.  An offer sheet is the definition of what the player and a new team has agreed to as the base salary for a deal, but the team with the rights can either decide to accept those terms in the offer sheet or relinquish the rights for a measured compensation.  Not only does the team negotiating with the player have to pay the player the agreed upon dollar amount, but it does have to offer up draft picks in compensation, which have to be their own, in order to do so.

For a quick guide to values and compensation, click here.

How feasible is an offer sheet to Hamilton?  Well, let's consider the market and we'll base it solely on scoring, as the intangibles and some of the other statistics can really muck up the basic look.

When I generally look at market value, it is generally age, give or take a year, so 21-to-23, scoring the season previous, give or take 5 points and then his position.  It truly seems like negotiations are based on the 'what have you done for me lately' mindset, where the numbers from the season previous are all that counts.  That may not be exactly the case, but it sure seems like it.

So, Hamilton, at age 22, picked up 42 points in 72 games last year from the blueline, so we'll draw some comparables from there.

Here we find a couple of direct hits, given the parameters of the search and it draws up some great comparables, namely Arizona's Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who now runs the show on the Coyotes' blueline for next season and last season's rookie standout from Dallas, John Klingberg.

2014-2015 Season 2016
Age Team GP P PPG Cap Hit
Dougie Hamilton 22 BOS 72 42 0.583 RFA
Oliver Ekman-Larsson 23 ARI 82 43 0.524 $5.5 million
John Klingberg 22 DAL 65 40 0.615 $4.25 million

There is a competitive edge to the buyout as well, let's not forget.  Teams who are signing these players to potential deals, also want to step to the edge of extreme difficulty for the team that has the rights to first refusal, in this case, the Bruins.

Let's say the Bruins, after the salary cap number is announced, still have $10 million left in cap space for five players, that isn't a lot of money per body left.  If a team was to sign Hamilton to a deal worth $5.4 million per season, one or two years in term, that would put the Bruins in a world of hurt if they matched and the offering team would only have to give a 1st and a 3rd round pick next season.

If the offering team was to really shoot for the moon, they would be giving up a 1st, 2nd & 3rd round pick to get the job done, which does become awfully expensive, but in this world, where franchise defensemen don't exactly grow on trees (they become them), three chances at a possible star for a bona fide, paid for star, doesn't seem out of the question.

What do you offer or how high does it have to go before the Bruins say, "we'll take the picks?"

Do the Islanders Deal Okposo?

The +New York Islanders are closing in on the "winning now" philosophy, as their franchise has taken a while through the rebuilding phase of the process of the professional cycle, so it seems awfully strange, when the reports surface that they have the late-blooming power forward, Kyle Okposo, on the trade block, trolling for draft picks.

I don't think there is anything necessarily wrong with keeping your cupboards stocked up with some young talent, but dealing an established (and rare) player on your roster, just to keep those cupboards stocked, seems a bit hasty.  Sure, the Islanders don't have a pick until the 3rd round, dealing their 1st and 2nd in a botched Thomas Vanek deal and then flipping another 2nd rounder in the deal that brought Johnny Boychuk to town.

There has been a lot said about the 2015 Entry Draft, how deep it is and how valuable these picks are, but at the end of the day, it's still a crap shoot.  If teams are willing to part with these picks, in order to get an established veteran player, it gets them ahead in the race for the Cup, while your team is not sure how this draft pick is going to fare in your system.

The Islanders were only 5 points clear of the playoff race, as a whole, in the Eastern Conference and that's still a pretty slim margin of error they are playing with, given what they are trying to accomplish.

Unless, the Islanders were confident in prospects like Michael Dal Colle or Josh Ho-Sang making an impact on their roster for next season, I would be certainly hesitant to deal Okposo, who may not have a 30-goal season yet to his credit, but he does seem to have a great mix in the team, as it currently stands.  You could really argue that the team missed him dearly, when he was out injured.

There are some other factors to consider, when thinking about keeping him... what happens next Summer?  He becomes an unrestricted free agent in one year's time.  Can the Islanders foresee some issues with trying to sign him to a long-term contract extension?  At only a $2.8 million cap hit for the coming year, the 27-year old forward may look to get paid next year and that could put him out of the Islanders' budget for the 2017 season.  Can the team get some value now, as he tries out for a new deal on a new team?  That is a reasonable cap hit this season, one that could turn out to be a bargain, if he remains healthy.

A team I could see going after a guy like Okposo would be the +Columbus Blue Jackets, as they wanted this type of player in Nathan Horton, but lost out on his services, due to his overall health.  The Jackets have a few 2nd round picks, holding onto Toronto's (#34), their own (#38) and Anaheim's (#58).  The Jackets could do well with a guy like Okposo on their side, if they are willing to part with some key picks.