With the NHL offseason now underway, most of the focus is on the Seattle Kraken expansion draft Wednesday and the annual NHL draft weekend of July 23-24. After that, the attention will turn toward the free-agent market opening July 28.
Fans and pundits will be following the destinations of this summer's top unrestricted free agents. However, there's always the possibility of a restricted free agent receiving an offer sheet from a rival club.
Offer sheets are a rarely used tactic by NHL general managers because the restricted free agent's team usually quickly matches the offer. The last player successfully signed away was Dustin Penner in 2007. The most recent attempt was in 2019, when the Carolina Hurricanes matched the five-year, $42.27 million offer sheet Sebastian Aho signed with the Montreal Canadiens.
Still, the opportunity is there for any general manager to make an offer to a good young player from a rival club, especially those with limited salary-cap space. If the venture proves successful, the gaining club sends a predetermined number of compensatory draft picks to the player's former club based on the salary of the new contract. If the player's team matches the offer, he cannot be traded for a year.
Not every restricted free agent is eligible to receive an offer sheet. Some, such as Minnesota Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov and Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes, lack the required years of NHL professional experience and thus cannot receive offer sheets.
With the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million for 2021-22, several young stars could be tempting targets for offer sheets. Here's a look at six who are worth the attempt.
Anthony Beauvillier, New York Islanders
With $77.1 million invested in 17 players for 2021-22, the New York Islanders are squeezed for cap room. A rival club could be tempted to take a run at signing Anthony Beauvillier to an offer sheet.
Beauvillier has tallied 24 or more points each season since his NHL debut in 2016-17. His best season was 2019-20, when he had 18 goals and 39 points in 68 games. However, the 24-year-old is a versatile forward who can skate on the wing or at center and plays a responsible two-way game. He has elevated his play in the postseason, netting 14 points in 22 games last year and 13 points in 19 contests this year.
Coming off a two-year, $4.2 million contract, Beauvillier is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. The Islanders must also re-sign restricted free agents Ilya Sorokin and Adam Pelech, who also have arbitration rights. Kyle Palmieri and Casey Cizikas are their notable unrestricted free agents.
The Islanders can get some cap relief by putting permanently sidelined defenseman Johnny Boychuk and his $6 million annual cap hit on long-term injured reserve. Nevertheless, it will still be a tight squeeze to fit everyone within their payroll. An offer to Beauvillier worth $4.1 million per season would only cost a team a second-round pick if the Isles decide not to match it.
Conor Garland, Arizona Coyotes
In just three seasons with the Arizona Coyotes, Conor Garland has developed into one of their best forwards. He has back-to-back 39-point performances over the past two seasons. This year was his best, reaching that point total in just 49 games while finishing third among Coyotes scorers. He also earned a spot for the U.S. team at the 2021 World Championship, tallying 13 points in 10 games.
A small forward at 5'10" and 165 pounds, Garland possesses good offensive skills and can skate on either wing. Selected in the fifth round (123rd overall) by the Coyotes in the 2015 draft, it took him a while to reach the NHL, but he's making the most of the opportunity.