The good news is that the Rangers, and with seemingly very good reason, are unconcerned over the prospect of an offer sheet being presented to Kaapo Kakko as negotiations on a bridge extension with the restricted free agent proceed at a somewhat mystifyingly slow pace.
Ah, but here’s the rub.
Is it truly good news that no team in the league believes it is worth approximately $4 million a year to poach the 21-year-old Finn from a cap-constrained Blueshirts organization that would have essentially no way to match such an offer sheet?
Surely the compensation of a second-round draft pick going the other way on an offer sheet with an annual average value of up to $4,201,488 wouldn’t seem a deterrent in exchange for the player just three years removed from being selected second overall in the draft.
Or does the absence of an offer sheet — or even the threat of one at this point — reflect Kakko’s singular desire to stay in New York and make it in New York? There is zero indication that the right wing or his agent, Mike Liut, has solicited interest from any other team.
And/or perhaps this is simply NHL general managers conducting business as usual, eschewing the offer sheet as a tool to acquire players. There is the rare exception, but GMs generally feel offer sheets will be matched and their own team then will become vulnerable to retaliation.
Again, though, in this case, Rangers general manager Chris Drury would be all but helpless to match a $4 million (per) bid on Kakko. Plus, the cap restraints that loom over the franchise would prevent the Rangers from a retaliatory strike for at least another three years.
Kakko is out there, but he isn’t.
That’s good news for the Rangers.
The Panthers appear to have become a destination team, finally taking advantage of their location in a no-tax state in this uneven hard-cap landscape that the NHL and NHLPA have failed to address — and indeed have promulgated — in a series of collective bargaining agreements.
Maybe, with Matthew Tkachuk’s acquisition, the fans in Florida will finally notice, the Puddy Tats ranking 24th in both NHL attendance (14,811) and percent of capacity (76.9) last year while winning the Presidents’ Trophy.
Is it too soon to pencil in Jonathan Huberdeau and Pierre-Luc Dubois on the Canadiens’ first line in 2024-25?
Calgary GM Brad Treliving was nimble in working his way out of the corner in which he was put by Tkachuk, the acquisitions of Huberdeau (30-85-115) and top-four defenseman MacKenzie Weegar likely allowing the Flames to remain an upper echelon team even accounting for Johnny Gaudreau’s defection.
But if the Flames cannot sign Huberdeau and/or Weegar, each of whom is a pending unrestricted free agent, the franchise will be obligated to move either or both as blue-chip rentals at the deadline and not repeat the 2022 Gaudreau “Eleventh Hour” error.
Yes, for sure, the Panthers become a more difficult team to play against by swapping Huberdeau for Tkachuk and become a more singular threat to the Lightning in their alligator alley confrontation.
By the way, we seem to have skipped over just how cutthroat Tampa Bay GM Julien BriseBois (and by extension, Jeff Vinik’s ownership) was in forcing Ryan McDonagh to waive his full no-trade clause for a team of his choice under threat of being placed on waivers and being claimed by a ne’er-do-well.
There is no need to shed tears for No. 27, who chose to go to a Nashville club that is bulking up, but the situation is representative of why no-move clauses are so precious.
But when the Oren Koules-Len Barrie ownership pulled the same maneuver in 2008 to friend of the column Dan Boyle, the execs were trashed.
(By me, even!)
If Lou Lamoriello’s insistence on keeping Semyon Varlamov as a $5 million backup to Ilya Sorokin is evidence that the Islanders GM thinks his team is going to have to play a season of 3-2 games, well, I’m rather skeptical that represents the route to success.
I wonder. Is it a cap-space issue, contract ask, or evaluation of talent and roster requirements (or a combination of all of the above) that is stopping the Rangers from re-upping Tyler Motte at the expense of keeping Dryden Hunt ($762,500) on the squad?
Again, though, if it’s another $500,000, that amounts to a difference of $2.325 million of space at the deadline that Drury must do everything in his power to preserve.
If Tkachuk could shift seamlessly to right wing last season after five years in the NHL playing on his natural left, why does it seem like the Rangers have an existential crisis with all their natural-born lefties?
David Quinn is one of the most compassionate, caring people I have met in my lifetime in this industry, and am delighted he has received a second chance in San Jose from recently hired GM Mike Grier, with whom he shares a BU bloodline.
There is every reason to believe that Quinn, who was not helped at all his final season in New York by a management that refused to address the 2020 bubble debacle, has recognized that his up-close-and-personal style does not necessarily translate across the board in the NHL and that he must allow his vets more breathing room … on the ice, on the bench, in the room.
One thing for sure, though. The young’uns on this Sharks team that is in a similar reset situation as were the Rangers when Quinn was hired — talk about type-casting — will receive an education and foundation in playing 200-foot hockey.