The signing of restricted free agents is a rarity, but it seems that most summers at least one team tries to sneak in an offer (though typically those offers are matched). With the NHL season over, the draft sneaking up on us, and free agency just two weeks away, I thought it might be a good idea to review the compensation and some of the most available restricted free agents.

Craig Custance of the Sporting News made the compensation levels for this summer’s free agents available to us back towards the end of May:

  • Offer of $1,034,249 per year or less: no compensation
  • From $1,034,250 to $1,567,043 per year: third round draft pick
  • From $1,567,044 to $3,134,088 per year: second round draft pick
  • From $3,134,089 to $4,701,131 per year: first and third round draft picks
  • From $4,701,132 to $6,268,175 per year: first, second and third round draft picks
  • From $6,268,176 to $7,835,219 per year: two first, one second, and one third round draft pick
  • $7,835,220 per year and higher: four first round draft picks

Already this summer, there are a number of teams perilously close to the NHL salary cap for next season, teams that might not be able to match an offer sheet. Interesting players on those teams make up our “soft targets” list.

Soft Targets

  • Tyler Kennedy, Pittsburgh – Playing mostly with either Mark Letestu or Jordan Staal this season, Kennedy quietly had a great year, recording 21 goals and 45 points to finish as the Penguins’ third-leading scorer. According to Behind the Net, he had superb possession numbers while playing tough opposition. He turns 25 this summer, and while his 21 goals stand out as a career high he has managed to hit double-digits in goals while playing partial years each of the last three seasons. My guess: The Penguins have a number of unrestricted free agents to sign and are already just $2.5 million away from the cap. An offer in the $3.0 million range would be difficult for them financially while still not costing more in compensation than a second round draft pick.
  • Andreas Nodl, Philadelphia – Nodl, who was a second round pick of the Flyers in 2006, scored 11 goals and added 11 assists in 2010-11. He is coming off a modest entry-level contract, and according to Cap Geek his qualifying offer is only $715,000. Nodl spent a lot of time starting in his own end against quality opponents as a regular winger for Mike Richards. He’s not really a scorer, but he is a defensive ace who plays an important role on the cheap. The Flyers have less than half a million dollars in cap space left for 2011-12, and they’re still trying to get Ilya Bryzgalov’s name on a contract. My guess: An offer right around $1.5 million would leave the Flyers with a bit of a dilemma without being a significant overpay in dollars or draft picks; an offer in the $2.0 million range would be a bit rich salary-wise but would bring in a young third-liner who can already handle the rigours of a checking role in the NHL.
  • Darroll Powe, Philadelphia – In the same aisle as Nodl, we find Darroll Powe. Like Nodl, he played a lot in his own end, but unlike Powe he spent a lot of time playing with Blair Betts rather than Mike Richards. He was generally used as a defensive-zone specialist and penalty-killer for the Flyers. At 26 (in four days), he’s a little older than Nodl and probably has less upside, but he’s a useful fourth-line player now. My guess: An offer in the $1.0 million range might get the job done without being overly costly, but I suspect the Flyers would probably match it. An offer above that range would be an overpay because of the draft pick compensation.

And that’s pretty much it. There are sexier names out there, but the Nashville Predators have repeatedly stated that they will match any offer to Shea Weber, the New Jersey Devils have taken Zach Parise to arbitration, and most other teams have either plenty of cap space to work with or no restricted free agents worth worrying about.

Sadly, Tyler Kennedy is probably the most interesting player that an NHL team could realistically have a shot at stealing this summer.