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August 1, 2012 | 11:17am ET
Big name RFAs set to cash in
Shea Weber was the first superstar in recent memory to sign an RFA offer sheet. There will likely be more in the years ahead.

CHICAGO, IL -- Teams in the NHL have been forced to move extra players, take out a second mortgage and (almost) pay to rent a barn because of them. The words themselves feel cheap. And yet, once again we're talking about them.

The offer sheet has become an elephant in many rooms recently. In spite of the Dustin Penner deal, leaving most believing the act of presenting an offer sheet was dirty poker, we've seen a defenseman sign one in two of the last three seasons (Niklas Hjalmarsson with San Jose in 2010 and Shea Weber this summer).

And, with Weber now worth more than a handful of European countries, many are wondering who could be the next bank-breaking restricted free agent.

One name is undoubtedly being circled by fans (and execs) everywhere: Claude Giroux. He's the next legitimate superstar scheduled to hit the restricted market, but the Flyers have two full seasons to get something done with their could-be captain before that day arrives. It's highly unlikely that Giroux gets to the point that Weber was at this summer.

Unfortunately for the Flyers, who were on the offering side with Weber, Giroux isn't the only restricted free agent on their calendar for 2014. Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier could draw interest from a number of competitors, and Philly has already committed almost $35 million to only eight players for the 2014-15 season (including Chris Pronger).

The new CBA could make life interesting for Paul Holmgren and the rest of the management team in Philadelphia. But they aren't alone.

In only 12 months, there's a possibility that another young defenseman could be incredibly popular. St. Louis has seven players scheduled to be restricted free agents in 2013, but the most interest is in Alex Pietrangelo. He was a darkhorse candidate for the Norris last season, and could be a candidate for an enormous pay day.

Pietrangelo will be only 23 next summer, but he has posted 43 and 51 points in his first two NHL seasons. He's a big, strong defenseman who is still developing his game, but with St. Louis also needing to work out a new deal with RFA-to-be Kevin Shattenkirk before the 2013-14 seasons, the willingness of the Blues' new ownership to spend will be put to the test quickly.

The Blues aren't alone in their need to start finding cap space this summer.

Two teams will battle for the distinction of the most interesting group of restricted free agents next summer.

The Edmonton Oilers are in the midst of a dramatic rebuilding project that has seen them enjoy the luck of the lottery more than any team in the history of any sports with a draft lottery.

But next summer, they are on the clock financially. Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Sam Gagner and Theo Peckham are four players that will be looking for a new deal, and the Oilers have Ryan Nugent-Hopkins ready for his second NHL contract the following summer.

Eberle might be the most intriguing player from that group. If he can match, or exceed, his 34-goal, 76-point season from a year ago, his cap number will increase exponentially from where it is now (just under $1.2 million).

Boston is the other team with a number of headaches coming via restricted free agency next year. After agreeing on a one-year deal with Tuukka Rask this summer, he'll be restricted once again next summer. Rask will be joined by Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand in the most experienced group of restricted free agents in the league.

The performance of Rask could be the game-changer for more than himself in Boston this year. After extending coach Claude Julien earlier this summer, the Bruins are handing the net to Rask. They have already committed over $69 million to the upcoming season (including Tim Thomas and Nathan Horton), so a rough start from Rask could put Boston in an unenviable situation.

Will we see another offer sheet soon? It's hard to tell without a new CBA in place, but if we've learned anything in the last three summers it's that GMs aren't afraid of pursuing restricted free agents.

Tab Bamford is a Columnist for TheFourthPeriod.com and the Chicago Correspondent for The Fourth Period Magazine.


 

 

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