Perhaps that four game sweep at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks left such a lasting sting on the San Jose Sharks that revenge was in order. Either that, or they were so impressed with the play of defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson that Doug Wilson felt signing him to an offer sheet would be an instant upgrade of the Sharks’ depleted blue line.

Hjalmarsson has in fact signed a 4-year $14 million offer sheet with the Sharks, which will likely end his tenure with the Blackhawks who find themselves battling the financial constraints of the salary cap. Chicago now has a week to match the offer, or let Hjalmarsson go to San Jose in exchange for a couple of draft picks. Finding room for Hjalmarsson’s new $3.5 million cap hit will be a challenge for the cap-strapped ‘Hawks.

Offer sheets are nothing new, having become all the more popular in the post-lockout era. For the most part, teams have chosen to match poaching offers. Other than the Anaheim Ducks refusal to match Edmonton’s offer sheet on Dustin Penner, we have to go back to 1997 when the Philadelphia Flyers inked Chris Gratton to a 5-year $16.5 million offer sheet which the Tampa Bay Lightning declined to match.

Below is a table outlining the six offer sheets that have been tendered since the NHL returned from its year long layoff in 2005:

Player Date Offer Sheet Offering Team Original Team Result
Ryan Kesler Sept. 12, 2006 1-Year $1.9M Philadelphia Vancouver Matched
Thomas Vanek July 6, 2007 7-Year $50M Edmonton Buffalo Matched
Dustin Penner July 26, 2007 5-Year $21.5M Edmonton Anaheim Accepted
David Backes July 1, 2008 3-Year $7.5M Vancouver St. Louis Matched
Steve Bernier July 8, 2008 1-Year $2.5M St. Louis Vancouver Matched
Niklas Hjalmarsson July 9, 2010 4-Year $14M San Jose Chicago Pending

The Anaheim Ducks, much like the Blackhawks today, were facing limitations due to the salary cap and had to let Dustin Penner go to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round draft picks.  We all remember how Brian Burke felt about Kevin Lowe’s poaching of Penner.  Although the collective bargaining agreement makes offer sheets fair game, it’s obviously unsettling for respective general managers.  Just take a look at the ‘eye-for-an-eye’ offer sheets tendered between St. Louis and Vancouver in 2008, forcing opposing GMs to pay a premium for the restricted free agents obviously doesn’t sit well.

So now Stan Bowman is faced with the unenviable task of letting a 23-year old skilled defenseman walk away, or finding a quick deal to free-up some precious cap space.  After already being forced to dismiss Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, Kris Versteeg and Andrew Ladd, the Blackhawks are now looking at another key piece of their championship team being severed due to the financial pressures of the cap.  Is it the cost of winning a Stanley Cup, or merely the price to pay for past mismanagement?

Comments (21)

  1. “Is it the cost of winning a Stanley Cup, or merely the price to pay for past mismanagement?”

    In this case, probably a bit of both. Some (I imagine most Chicago fans) would say that winning a Cup is worth seeing the team get partially dismantled over the summer, and really it’s probably just about impossible to field an entire Cup-winning roster the year after – you’re bound to lose some guys.

    But Dale Tallon’s sub-par cap management, both in offering the contracts he did and in playing it so close that the Hawks are facing a massive cap penalty because they went over, is definitely to blame for the troubles they’re facing now.

  2. Agree with James. This is all on Tallon. But banners hang forever, so it doesn’t hurt that much.

  3. Incidentally, the Canucks should have let Bernier go. A 2nd round pick was probably worth more than the premium they paid on his salary

  4. @Hawerchuk, I agree with you that the Canucks probably should have let Bernier go. Kid just keeps bouncing around, although I like his size and potential. I hoping he can put it together in Florida, he’s running out of chances.

    Both you and James make a valid point in that banners hang forever, still it’s a little disheartening for Blackhawks fans to see so many faces leave so quickly.

  5. The Campbell and Huet deals have really screwed the Hawks in having a potential dynasty team. both guys were hardly integral to their cup win this year, especially Huet. The Hossa deal doesn’t help much either. They basically are playing Jenga, taking pieces away from a really good team.

  6. disgusting to let hammer go for a high first rounder.an third which will be alomst a fourth….unless they trade picks for kaberle.
    i thought huet was gonna go down to the minors to free up cap…i mean what is this is old man wirtz back again?? Hiow much frikkin cap space do you need man?!

  7. I read somewhere that they have ~ 4 million in space and that they will send Huet to the minors so that will give them 9 to sign Hjalmarsson and Niemi and some scrubs so they can get it done but its a tough thing to take if you are a Hawks’ fan. Bowman has brought in some nice pieces so that in a couple of years they will be ready to go at it again but the combination of Huet/Campbell plus the qualifying offer fiasco from last year has made the pain worse than it should be. Without the two bad contracts they have ~16 in space and without the qualifying offer garbage they probably have a few more which means they keep both guys in doubt now plus Versteeg and Ladd and maybe even Byfuglien.

    Your guys are going to get paid when you make a run, hell when the Oilers went to the final in 2006 they had to give a ton of guys raises. But a lot of this rests on management. Tallon for blowing the qualifying offers. Him or the guys above him, depending on who you believe, for Huet and Campbell.

    Having said all of that while it sucks for Chicago fans to see these guys leave they would not trade it for the run they had this spring.

  8. It’s not as simple as just the cap you guys forget whether the player is in the minors or with the big club he’s still getting paid. No one will take that contract likely not even on re-entry. So it’s not just a matter of cap space it’s matter of the owner and the money coming out of his bank account to pay for the guys they are tossing into the minors.

    While it makes sense to us to do simply throw Huet in the minors do you think the Hawks owners would be all that thrilled to hear that? Most likely the owner has told both Bowman’s to suck it up and work with what they got not to toss him away cause the guy is still getting paid regardless. Not to mention one who would the Hawks have to back up Neimi if they can’t afford Huet they likely can’t afford a good back up. And what happens if Neimi is the infamous one year wonder and is never as good as he was again then what? They can’t call Huet back up cause that’ll put them over the cap so basically they are stuck with him. Cause there’s no way someone will trade for him right now and there’s no way they can sell putting Huet in the minors to the owner where he’s getting paid to not play in NHL back up or not.

  9. Haters.

    Chicago just won the Cup but Dale Tallon is an idiot.

    Patrick Sharp, Jonathon Toews, Patrick Kane, Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg, Marion Hossa, Thomas Kopecky, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Cristobal Huet, Anti Niemi.

    All acquired by Dale Tallon. The guy is quite obviously incompetent.

    Huet, career sv% 0.913 / 0.917 in the playoffs. Terrible goalie. They won’t be able to give the guy away now that they have the greatest goalie of all time (signed by Dale Tallon) in Anti Niemi.

    They’re set in net for a decade.

    They’re stuck with this joke of a netminder because every other team in the league is also set at the position, nobody has a need for a guy with a contract like that (especially considering that the guy sucks rocks) and certainly nobody has a relatively similar contract to move in any trade (a trade that will of course never happen because Huet stinks).

    Heck, why take a shot on Huet when you can have Marty Turco for half the price?

    Brian Campbell, 90 points in 2 seasons. Such an irresponsible defenseman. Averaging just under 20 minutes per game in the playoffs, tied for best +/- (I know, its a garbage stat) for all skaters (+11). He’s lucky to have a jersey.

    Marion Hossa. Hey! That’s a girl’s name! He stinks too.

    What happens when reality doesn’t mesh with your expectations? It must be reality that is the problem. The spreadsheet says so.

    Of course, Chicago is one and done; they have no talent; they just traded their 10 least important players for high draft picks and borderline prospects.
    How on earth are they going to replace Sopel? And Buffer? I mean, he had like; almost 50 points last year and he’s huge! And this Hjalmarsson kid, watch out; he’s like a cross between Borje Salming and Larry Robinson. 17 points doesn’t lie (8 points in the playoffs!).

    Dale Tallon quite obviously screwed Chicago, only one Cup? What a douche.

  10. Missed the point noskillgill.

    Tallon did a great job building the Hawks and is off to a nice start in Florida too. No doubt.

    And as I noted a lot of folks think Huet and Campbell were signings pushed on him by upper management so they may not even be his fault. But they are bad signings regardless. No need to give any goalie that contract and term. Huet was a decent goalie at the time but he’s not even that now, probably due to injury. As for Campbell, he’s a good player but not a great one. Paying a second pairing defenceman (and he was that in Buffalo too) seven million a year is awfully bad and the term is terrible too. I like Campbell a lot, like I said, but he’s a case of good player, bad contract.

    Hossa is an excellent player and i think that contract is fine. He’ll be retired before the end of it and the cap hit is a good one. People saying its a bad contract are worried about the term. That doesn’t even matter. He’ll be back in Slovakia long before its done.

    That offer sheet screwup – all on Tallon though.

    Are the Hawks one and done? Naw they have plenty of talent and Bowman has brought in some nice prospects in the firesale. Most of the guys sent away are spares and the most important one (Hjarlmarsson) they will keep. Top four dmen at 23 don’t grow on trees. And they have Brouwer to move into the top nine. They’ll probably win a couple more cups in the next while if things fall their way.

    But if they had managed the cap better then they would have been able to keep more of those guys and its probably better to do so than not to, don’t you think? Ladd and Versteeg and Byfuglien can all be replaced down the road but if you could keep three top nine forwards then, er, why wouldn’t you? I’m not sure what spreadsheet you’re referring to btw, but keeping three top nine forwards instead of a backup goalie, overpaying a Dman by 3 million and screwing up some paperwork is probably good mangement.

    Tallon did a very good job but it could have been an excellent one.

  11. no, I didn’t miss the point. My post wasn’t a rebuttal of your post but a response to Scott’s question :

    Is it the cost of winning a Stanley Cup, or merely the price to pay for past mismanagement?

    My position is that only a hater would call winning a cup mismanagement.

    We can split hairs on whether or not Huet is a backup goalie(if he is,he’s the best backup in the league), whether Campbell (152pts in the last 3 seasons)is overpaid and on whether or not Tallon needed to acquire those bodies at those prices. We can argue about whether or not Hjalmarsson is truly a top 4 Dman, whether or not SanJose making a play for him is revenge, a strategic hedge or simply a legitimate attempt to secure what they believe to be a good hockey player.
    But, I simply cannot see any legitimacy in arguing that Tallon mismanaged anything (are GM’s truly responsible for faxing paperwork? I’ve never worked anywhere where the manager faxes anything) because, he won a Cup and discussing what if’s is pointless. Nobody can say what would happen if X had occurred instead of Y. What happens if SanJose signs Campbell? What happens if Washington keeps Huet? Do the Hawks go with Khabibhulin and Niemi? Does that win them a Cup? We can argue about ideal forms and hypotheticals but in sports, results are what matter.
    The facts are that they won that Cup with the overpaid services of Huet and Campbell. The team core is intact. They acquired assets for the pieces they did have to move (Versteeg is the only loss that concerns me but they got some solid and cheap prospects back in that one). They are still a legitimate Cup contender. That’s an excellent job if you ask me.

  12. noskillgill-

    The point you’re seemingly missing is, Tallon has made mistakes – no matter if you want to debate them or not, they are mistakes.
    The QO thing, that was a management mistake and even if Tallon isn’t the one hitting the ‘send’ button on the fax himself, he’s still responsible for what happens in his office. That debacle has cost the Hawks and it should’ve been avoided. The fact they won the Cup doesn’t erase that mistake.
    Same goes for Campbell and Huet. I really don’t think there’s any argument that justifies these contracts. Not saying Campbell is a bad D, so no need to remind me how many points, or +/- or whatever else he’s done. He’s overpaid, that’s all. Unless nearly every other D in the league is underpaid… And that 3M overpay could’ve gone towards keeping Versteeg.

    The Hawks are certainly still a Cup contender, I’m not denying that. And as I said in my first post on this topic, I’m sure most Hawks fans would say the loss of a few players is worth the cost of having the Cup back in Chicago. But blindly denying that Tallon has mismanaged the team in the past? I don’t understand that.

  13. No, James; the point that you are missing is that I don’t think Tallon’s mistakes outweigh the Cup that he was instrumental in bringing to Chicago. How many times do I have to post that before you know-it-all armchair GM Nostradamus hybrids get the picture?
    I don’t care that Huet and Campbell are overpaid because they won the Cup. I don’t care that the qualifying offer for Versteeg was missed because they won the Cup. The fact that they won the Cup does erase all mistakes because they won the Cup. It isn’t a blind denial, merely an acceptance of the fact that the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup and the acknowledgement of the value that winning the Stanley Cup entails. Change one thing on the Hawks and do they win the Cup? Who knows (I guess you do)?
    I prefer the absolute value of “1″(Stanley Cup’s won this year) over the “X” (unknowable value) that you seem to prefer. Capiche?

  14. You’re acting like the term ‘mismanagement’ is an absolute. Like it’s impossible for a team to have been mismanaged (as the Hawks have been, at times, by Tallon) AND still win the Cup. Which isn’t what I’m saying.
    Winning a Cup doesn’t erase mistakes – there’s no way I’ll ever agree with you on that.

    Nowhere have I said winning the Cup didn’t outweigh those mistakes though, in fact I said the contrary twice in this thread alone. So I guess we see level on that one.

    I haven’t said anywhere either that I know the Hawks would, or wouldn’t, have won the Cup without the Huet or Campbell signings. I really don’t know and honestly I don’t care, not being a Hawks fan. There’s something to be said about statistical probability though – having better or equal players on cheaper contracts probably results in a Cup win as well…

    However, because hockey is about winning, and that what demonstrably allows a team to consistently win is having players that outplay their contract values, I can still say both these contracts are bad. Whether they won the Cup with them or not is besides the point for me – a bad contract is a bad contract, and the guy who offered it made a mistake.

  15. I’m not a Hawks fan either. Having better or equal players on cheaper contracts…..sure. Why not give them Ovechkin and Drew Doughty too (who both sign for a lifetime supply of beer and bratz) and while were talking fantasy; give em a magic horseshoe that turns into a clone of Wayne Gretzky whenever they need it. I’m discussing reality and you’re discussing alternate universes.

  16. You’re not discussing, you’re ridiculing whatever you don’t agree with.
    I’m not dealing in alternate universe, I’m just saying a good part of a GM’s job is signing players to contracts they will outplay – it’s pretty simple, there’s nothing fantastic about it, it’s called sports management in a cap world… you should check it out, it’s kind of neat.
    But I guess that’s just too difficult for you to understand.

  17. Well, you already conceded the argument when you acknowledged that not only are the Hawks the champs but they are also still a contender. Anyone who would concede that point and still hold the position that Tallon mismanaged the cap obviously doesn’t understand their own argument very well let alone someone else’s.
    The goal isn’t to have a 50pt defenseman at 2.25 mil a year, the goal is to win the Cup. It’s a fine distinction though so I can understand your confusion and forgive your obstinacy, this is obviously beyond your realm.

  18. No, the goal is to have a 50pt defenseman at a reasonable price so as to not force out quality, utility players AND win the Cup – but maybe having 2 goals at the same time is too much for you?

    And because a manager has succeeds at one while failing at the other, doesn’t mean there wasn’t some mismanagement – winning the Cup doesn’t absolve the guy of everything, no matter how simplistic you would like it to be.

  19. But since that never happens you are once again onto discussing fantasy. I’ll take the Cup, you keep mystery player X who’s identity is known only to you and God.

  20. Right… so there aren’t any good-not-great defenseman in this league that are reasonably paid? There’s not a single team that won the Cup, since the inception of the salary cap, that had properly managed its payroll?

  21. Name a team that has won the Cup since the cap came in that wasn’t hard up against it or didn’t have to dump parts after winning it.
    You have to spend to win, teams that do so have a vastly stronger chance at winning the Cup. No team that rises to the top escapes the cap. Tallon brought the Cup to Chicago, that isn’t mismanagement; that is an unmitigated success.

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