Offer sheets remain a very real threat with Hamilton


Offer sheets remain a very real threat with Hamilton

With the Dougie Hamilton negotiations still waiting to get moving in earnest, there has been plenty of talk about restricted free agents and offer sheets.

The 22-year-old RFA and the Bruins aren’t close on a contract with the clock ticking to July 1, and the time when Hamilton can begin receiving offer sheets from other teams looking to steal him away from the Black and Gold. The Bruins have the right to match any offer sheet pushed Hamilton’s way, of course, and the team would get solid draft pick compensation should another team woo him away from Boston.

But a salary cap-strapped club like Boston remains very susceptible to potentially losing a player to an offer sheet. A source with knowledge of the Hamilton situation has indicated to that the Bruins are prepared to go all the way to $7 million a season to match any offer sheet coming the defenseman’s way.

That’s also the same ballpark that Hamilton’s camp seems to be eying for a big contract with Drew Doughty ($7 million per season) and Alex Pietrangelo ($6.5 million per season) as their high end comparable contracts. Of course, it should be noted that both Doughty and Pietrangelo were All-Star performers and finished top-5 in the Norris Trophy voting before they were signed to their long term, big dough deals. Hamilton is neither of those things at this point, but could be that player in the next couple of years as he reaches his prime at a position (defenseman) that tends to develop very slowly.

Don Sweeney admitted an offer sheet is a possibility for Hamilton, but also didn’t exactly sound worked up about it.

“Generally speaking, the possibility [of an offer sheet] exists. You have to be aware of it,” said Sweeney during last week’s pre-draft conference call with the media. “Over time, there have been certain players that bells and whistles go off, so you have to be [aware], and we are — we understand it. We’re moving forward with how we want to get this done. So it definitely exists…they’re not taking that out of the CBA.”

It should be noted that only one RFA over the last 15 years has signed an offer sheet that wasn’t matched: Dustin Penner back in 2007 when he moved from the Anaheim Ducks to the Edmonton Oilers. In the last five years there have been only three offer sheets signed by players: Nik Hjalmarsson in 2010, Shea Weber in 2012 and Ryan O’Reilly in 2013. All three of those offer sheets – including a 14-year deal for $110 million for Weber – were matched by teams that didn’t want to lose their young player.

That organizational stance makes sense for a team that can’t lose a young puck-moving defenseman still trending toward being a No. 1 D-man, but the hope would still be that Hamilton will sign for less than that.

A two-year deal in the $4.5-5 million per season range would give the young D-man a nice bump to recognize the offensive breakthroughs Hamilton made while notching 10 goals and 42 points in 72 games last season. But it would also acknowledge what everybody knows about Hamilton: that the youngster still has some strides to make with work in the D-zone and decision-making with the puck.

The most obvious candidate to attempt luring Hamilton away with an offer sheet would be Peter Chiarelli and the Edmonton Oilers, but the Columbus Blue Jackets have also shown keen interest in the potential restricted free agent.

The real lack of young, potential future No. 1 defenseman and the fairly reasonable compensation of just a first round pick, a second pick and a third round pick for any contract under $7.3 million per season could turn those teams into proactive buyers. There’s also a number of new GM’s in new spots over the last couple of seasons, and that could change the surprising lack of activity in the RFA market over the years.

There are many around the league watching this Hamilton/Bruins situation play out with great interest.

“Every team is looking for that big, mobile, puck-moving defenseman that’s capable of getting 35-50 points, you know?” said one NHL front office member outside of Boston. “If I’m another team and I have a chance to get him, obviously with the CBA there are different things you can do to make that happen like offer sheets. I think he’s in a good spot for himself. As far as the [Bruins] organization goes, I wouldn’t want to be the guy that lost him.

“When you look at the [offer sheet] compensation, it’s not bad compensation for a guy [in Hamilton] who’s going to play 25 minutes a night and can move the puck like that.”

Most general managers operated in the past with the fear somebody would pluck away their treasured RFA talent if they made a move on some other team’s restricted asset.

But that tacit understanding seems to be going away now as the rules make it easier than ever try out an offer sheet. It’s something that has many around the league watching with keen curiosity, and could be a real problem for the Bruins if another team opts to roll out a juicy offer sheet in the neighborhood of five year, $36 million once things go beyond July 1.

Brad Marchand 'not concerned' about how Bruins have looked in first few games

Brad Marchand 'not concerned' about how Bruins have looked in first few games

The Bruins certainly haven’t impressed anybody out of the gate thus far in dropping both of their games after a five-month layoff due to COVID-19.

They have been outscored 8-2 in losing both their exhibition game vs. the Blue Jackets and their opening round robin game against the Flyers, and there hasn’t been much to write home about it in either game.

David Pastrnak scored on a nice individual play vs. Columbus and Chris Wagner scrapped for a fourth line goal vs. Philly, but the Perfection Line has been quiet while the special teams haven’t been all that good either.

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Both goaltenders Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak looked rusty between the pipes as well, so most of the team’s strengths during the regular season have been MIA thus far in the Toronto bubble. Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Pastrnak had one shot on goal apiece until late in the proceedings against the Flyers and were all minus-2 or worse when the game was over, so clearly Boston’s best players left a lot to be desired at both ends of the ice.

Still, don’t count them as concerned with two more round robin games left against Tampa Bay and Washington prior to the real playoff rounds starting next week.

“Instead of trying to make plays out of nothing, we’re going to have to try to get [pucks] in deep a little bit more and wear teams down low while making our plays in deep,” said Marchand. “We do tend to want to be more of a rush line and create opportunities on the rush, but with the ice the way it is right now it’s too tough. We’re just going to have to simplify a little bit. We’re going to get our looks and when they are there and they’re clear, then we can make them. But the ones where we’re trying to force it, we need to be a little smarter and get it in deep.

We’re not concerned about the way the last few games have gone. We’ve been off for six months and it’s going to take a couple of games to get back into it. But when we do, then [the goals] are going to come in bunches.

Certainly Boston’s top players looked passive with the puck, slow to react and hesitant to shoot when given a lane, and that is not very much like any of the Perfection Line guys when they are feeling it offensively.

In the past, there have been plenty of instances when Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak can look downright bad on the ice if there really isn’t much to play for within the game. They looked dreadful for a week or two at the end of the 2018-19 regular season once everything was clinched for the postseason, but then came on like gangbusters in the NHL postseason against the Toronto Maple Leafs and everybody else.

Perhaps they weren’t going full tilt in round robin and exhibition games that have little bearing on the actual playoffs, but that should change with the next couple of round robin tilts against Tampa Bay and Washington. These are teams that the Bruins will absolutely want to make statements against as they edge closer to the traditional four rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

So the Bruins' top players aren’t "concerned” right now, but there might be a different answer from them if it’s more of the same Wednesday night against the rival Lightning.  

Steven Stamkos injury: Lightning star won't play vs. Bruins in round robin

Steven Stamkos injury: Lightning star won't play vs. Bruins in round robin

The Boston Bruins need a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday if they're going to earn a high playoff seed from the NHL's round robin, and luckily for the B's, the Bolts will be without their captain and best player.

Lightning center Steven Stamkos won't be in the lineup, Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper told reporters Tuesday.

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Stamkos is recovering from a lower-leg injury suffered during July's Phase 2 team workouts. He also did not play in the Lightning's 3-2 shootout win against the Washington Capitals in their round robin opener on Monday.

The loss of Stamkos is a tough blow for the Lightning. He's one of the league's most talented offensive players, and he's also enjoyed plenty of success versus the Bruins. Stamkos has tallied 34 points (23 goals, 11 assists) in 41 career regular season games against the B's. The veteran center also has posted 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 12 career playoff matchups with the Bruins.

Injuries have been an issue for Stamkos throughout the 2019-20 campaign. He missed 25 games during the regular season, but still managed to score 66 points (29 goals, 37 assists).

The Bruins lost their first round robin game 4-1 to the Philadelphia Flyers last Sunday. After playing the Lightning, the B's will conclude their round robin schedule Sunday against the Washington Capitals. The order of the round robin standings will determine these four teams' seeds for the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.