RFA targets, fits this offseason

What will it take to pry Ryan O'Reilly, others from their current teams?

Updated: April 30, 2014, 11:24 AM ET
By Matthew Coller | Hockey Prospectus

O'ReillyMichael Martin/Getty ImagesRyan O'Reilly's strong two-way play would be an asset to a team with poor possession metrics.

It does not happen often, but occasionally an NHL team takes a swipe at the restricted free-agent market, which is loaded with established and up-and-coming stars. Teams can submit an offer sheet on an RFA, giving the player's team the option of matching or exchanging the player for draft picks consummate with the offer, as shown here:

The RFA market is not often utilized because of simple economics. Prices required to steal a player away are high, often unreasonably so. If the price is reasonable, the team holding the rights will simply match the offer and keep its player. For example, two offseasons ago, the Philadelphia Flyers submitted an offer sheet for Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber. Nashville matched the 14-year, $110 million offer.

In order to successfully sign a player away, a team must craft an offer sheet that the player's current team is either unwilling or unable to afford and/or create a situation where the mandatory draft pick compensation outweighs the player's value to his current team. It requires a kind of perfect storm, but it is possible.

Will anyone try to pry away a young star this offseason? There are a few players whose teams might have difficulty matching the price other teams may put on them due to salary-cap reasons or may prefer the draft picks to making the RFA part of their long-term plan. Here are four potential targets that could attract an offer sheet, along with the teams that could put the RFA in their offseason crosshairs.


Ryan O'Reilly | F | Colorado Avalanche | 12.1 GVT

The 23-year-old, two-way forward continued to build on his resume as a dominant player in 2013-14 by scoring 28 goals for the breakout Avs. O'Reilly did absolutely everything, playing over 19 minutes per game, killing penalties, drawing penalties and handling tough defensive minutes. He was one of Colorado's best possession players with a plus-2.6 percent relative Corsi, which measures the difference in shots directed at each net when a player is on/off of the ice.

Best fit: Toronto Maple Leafs

If any team needs a powerful two-way forward with defensive and puck possession skill, it is the Maple Leafs. They unsuccessfully tried Dave Bolland in the role, and neither Nazem Kadri nor Tyler Bozak is fit to play as a team's No. 1 center. The Leafs allowed the most shots against in the NHL at 34.9 per game; O'Reilly would instantly lower that number.

Offer sheet: 7 years, $49 million

Compensation: Two first-round picks, one second-round pick, one third-round pick

The Leafs have a nice pen of prospects, a franchise goalie in Jonathan Bernier and some elite scoring talent on the wing. It would be worth the picks to grab a franchise center. Colorado likely wants to lock up O'Reilly, but may want to re-sign Paul Stastny, Jamie McGinn and Tyson Barrie, which could create a bit of a cap crunch. The Avs also have to plan long-term for a mega deal for Nathan MacKinnon, and may prefer to take the picks.