Two years ago, we were teased with the Sebastian Aho offer sheet. 

Last year, the Hurricanes delivered with Jesperi Kotkaniemi. 

Is this a start of a trend in the right direction to bring us more chaos? Probably not, but we all can hope. 

With the cap slowly starting to increase, teams around the league may be able to take advantage of those around the league who don’t have any financial flexibility. One way to do that is with an offer sheet. 

If a team accepts an offer sheet, they’re compensated in draft picks. 

Which players around the league should be targeted with an offer sheet? And how much should acquiring teams be floating these pending restricted free agents?

Let’s take a closer look at the top targets this offseason. 

 

Noah Dobson

Offer: $7M x 6 years

Ahead of free agency this year, 24 defensemen are set to have a cap hit of at least $7 million in 2022-23. This offer sheet would put Dobson right in at 25, which may seem like a stretch considering he isn’t a top-pair defenseman on his own team right now, and the Islanders’ leading duo each comes in, on average, closer to $6 million on the cap. 

But that cap hit actually can fit his caliber play. Dobson projects to be worth 1.9 wins next season, which lands him 25th among defenders in the league and ahead of both Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech. 

There’s always a risk to signing players with limited experience to such hefty contracts — especially without certainty of how he’d handle facing top competition when he won’t have someone like Pulock ahead of him to absorb those minutes. In this case, that cap risk comes with a cost of draft capital: a first-, second- and third-round pick. 

But Dobson’s emerging into the kind of player teams likely hope they can gain with their first-round picks, which can make it worth it. The other added benefit is the timing of his career this contract would capture, covering his peak seasons and ensuring a team pays for current and future performance, versus catching the tail end of his prime then covering years of decline. Teams around the league have been far too willing to sign 27-plus-year-old defenders to significant contracts, when that risk should be reserved for those in their early-20s like Dobson. 

Would the Islanders match that?

Based on their current roster construction, they really need to — they’re still feeling the ripple effects of losing Devon Toews for two second-rounders. Trading another puck-mover in Nick Leddy only added further strain. Losing Dobson would put this team in the market for not one, but two players of this mold. 

But there are some financial hurdles. Would management want to spend extra for Dobson when Pelech and Pulock are each closer to $6 million? Can they swing this when looking ahead at other expiring contracts, like Mathew Barzal in a year or breakout goaltender Ilya Sorokin a season later, along with some depth roles? Would there be any latitude to invest in another high-end forward to punch up this offense if Dobson absorbed $7 million of cap space instead of a bridge deal he’s probably on track for?

Whether the Islanders matched the offer sheet or let Dobson walk, it puts the team in a bind, something opponents around the league should always be trying to do.