The five craziest free agent offer sheets in NHL history

Jared Clinton
By: Jared Clinton
May 5, 2015

Scott Stevens ended up a New Jersey Devil after the St. Louis Blues signed Brendan Shanahan to an offer sheet. (Elsa/Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News


The five craziest free agent offer sheets in NHL history

Jared Clinton
By: Jared Clinton
May 5, 2015

St. Louis’ Vladimir Tarasenko still doesn’t have a contract and could be ripe for an offer sheet. He wouldn’t be the first Blues player to land one or the first player the team lost because of one. Here are the five most infamous offer sheets and the way their stories unfolded, including how Scott Stevens became a New Jersey Devil.

The St. Louis Blues and GM Doug Armstrong have made no bones about it: whatever the price is for Vladimir Tarasenko, they’re willing to pay. In the end, that could come down to matching an offer sheet.

If the Blues can’t get Tarasenko, a restricted free agent, under contract by the time the draft comes and goes, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that another team will see the worth in locking up St. Louis’ star sniper. It’s a tactic that has been used for nearly three decades, although rarely over the past decade.

Looking back through the NHL’s history of offer sheets, though, gives us an idea of just how crazy things could get should Tarasenko ink an offer from another team. These are five of the craziest offer sheet scenarios in league history:

5. Shea Weber signs 14-year, $110-million deal with Philadelphia – July 18, 2012

The Flyers made it very evident how much they appreciated and desired Weber’s skillset when they inked him to the most lucrative offer sheet in league history. With the Predators in a bind with both of their star defensemen, Ryan Suter and Weber, heading to free agency, it seemed as though Weber would have been ripe for the picking. It may have very well been what Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren was counting on, especially considering the budget-nature of Nashville and that the deal included a $68 million signing bonus.

However, the Predators, with Suter already gone, found the money to match the offer sheet and end the talk of losing Weber before it came to fruition. What confused many, though, was how long it took Nashville to match the offer sheet. Given seven days to do so, they waited until the fifth day to officially match the deal.

4. Flyers offer sheet to Chris Gratton results in arbitration – Aug. 12, 1997

In the summer of 1997, the Flyers made their first attempt in franchise history to utilize the offer sheet process to land Gratton from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Gratton, who had been selected third overall in the 1993 draft by the Lightning, was up for a new deal when he signed a five-year, $16.5 million deal with the Flyers.

Things get confusing, however, when the Chicago Blackhawks enter the picture. Chicago claimed they had acquired the rights to Gratton, while the Lightning said the offer sheet was invalid because the fax was smudged. Seriously, that was the reason.

The entire ordeal resulted in arbitration, where the Flyers won and struck a deal with the Lightning. In exchange for their four first-round selections back – the compensation at the time – Philadelphia sent Mikael Renberg and Karl Dykhuis to Tampa Bay. Gratton ended up a Flyer.

After a season and a half, Gratton was dealt back to Tampa Bay for Renberg.

3. Vancouver and St. Louis battle with contracts – July 2008

Over a seven-day span from July 1 to July 8, 2008, the Vancouver Canucks and St. Louis Blues front offices fired shots back and forth. It was the Canucks who fired first, however.

With David Backes’ contract with St. Louis over and free agency looming, the Canucks attempted to swing a deal for him. The trade fell flat and, subsequently, Vancouver offered Backes a 3-year, $7.5 million deal that was answered in hours by St. Louis.

Blues president of hockey operations at the time, John Davidson, told the Vancouver Province that the initial trade offer was akin to giving up, “a Volkswagen for a Porsche.” Clearly displeased with the Canucks’ attempts to acquire Backes, St. Louis shot back with an offer sheet of their own: a one-year, $2.5 million deal for Steve Bernier, who the Canucks had acquired from the Sabres four days prior.

Like Backes’ offer sheet, the one for Bernier was matched quickly and he remained a Canucks, but then-Vancouver GM Mike Gillis said he had no doubt why the offer sheet for Bernier came in.

"They made an offer sheet on a player that we traded for and we really liked and we matched it," Gillis told media in a conference call. "We came out very aggressively on July 1. We had done a lot of homework and targeted a player that we liked.

"I guess quid pro quo is what it is. We were aggressive and they've been aggressive."

2. Edmonton’s contract to Dustin Penner goes unmatched by Anaheim – July 26, 2007

This is the offer sheet that famously drew the ire of Brian Burke, Anaheim’s GM at the time of the Penner ordeal, who called then-Edmonton GM Kevin Lowe, “gutless,” for his offer to one of Burke’s young players.

At the time of the offer sheet, Penner was coming off of a 29-goal, 45-point regular season and three-goal, eight-point post-season in which the Ducks won the Stanley Cup. Extended a deal for five years and $21.5 million, Penner signed with the Edmonton, but Anaheim had seven days in which to match the contract. They did not and Penner was shipped to the Oilers in exchange for Edmonton’s first-, second- and third-round picks in the 2008 draft.

It took until Penner’s third year in Edmonton for him to find his stride, as he notched a career-best 32 goals and 63 points in 2009-10. The Oilers dealt Penner to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Colten Teubert, a 2011 first-round pick and a conditional third-round pick in 2012. With the Kings, Penner would capture the 2011-12 Stanley Cup.

1. Scott Stevens gets dealt as compensation for Brendan Shanahan – July 25, 1991

Had it not been for the St. Louis Blues wanting Scott Stevens so desperately from the Washington Capitals, he may have never been a New Jersey Devil. The whole story of Stevens becoming a Devil begins little less than a year earlier, when the Blues inked Stevens, then a Washington Capital, to a four-year, $5.1 million offer sheet.

The Capitals, who felt they couldn’t match the deal that also included a $1.4 million signing bonus and made Stevens the highest paid blueliner in the league at the time, let Stevens walk in exchange for a grand total of five first-round picks.

Those five first-round selections turned into just a single season of Stevens in St. Louis, though. During the 1991 off-season, the Blues eyed up another big-time restricted free agent, New Jersey’s Brendan Shanahan. After inking Shanahan to a three-year, $3.015 million contract that the Devils couldn’t match, the Blues needed to find a way to compensate New Jersey as St. Louis’ first-round picks were locked up by the Capitals.

As the story goes, the Devils asked for Stevens as compensation, but were instead met with an offer that included Curtis Joseph, Rod Brind’Amour and two draft choices. New Jersey declined the offer and chose to take St. Louis to arbitration, where a judge ruled in favor of the Devils and awarded them Stevens.

Shanahan played four years in St. Louis, scoring 156 goals and 306 points in 277 games as the Blues advanced to the second round of the playoffs just once. In New Jersey, Stevens would play 13 seasons, racking up 97 goals and 430 points to go along with three Stanley Cups.

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The five craziest free agent offer sheets in NHL history