Everybody is talking about offer sheets and Rasmus Sandin. Okay, maybe two people are. But it’s that time of the year when everyone decides to fantasize about which players should be “offer-sheeted”. Sandin is an obvious candidate for this game.
Daily Faceoff’s piece makes the point that Sandin’s expected new contract is going to be similar to Timothy Liljegren’s $1.4 million. Both articles suggest that something in the second-round pick compensation tier would be required to get the Leafs to balk and not match the offer. That tier is $2.100473 million to $4.201488 million. The Leafs don’t have a lot of wiggle room for the coming season, so how high a team would have to go is open to debate.
An offer sheet is not a thing that is done to a player, however, and both articles use the device of having the player make the decisions necessary to the article writer. That’s standard with offer sheet talk. The reality is, however, that Sandin has to sign an offer he (his agent) negotiates with an interested team. To get a player to sign, and to win the player as well, a team does have to overpay.
The Carolina Hurricanes’ technique with Jesperi Kotkaniemi was to overpay him for one year and then extend him at a lower AAV. It is clear that part of the deal was part of the deal when he signed the offer sheet. The Montréal Canadiens’ technique, that failed, was to make a deal with Sebastian Aho that loaded up a lowish AAV with signing bonuses, and the Hurricanes swallowed that poison pill with no real ill effects, and are likely really happy with the AAV on their star player.
Those two players likely had different reasons for signing, but what would be Sandin’s? The logjam on left defence, ice time, opportunity to play and exactly what timeline the Maple Leafs see for his future is the big one. How patient should the Leafs expect Sandin to be? How serious is anyone about his playing on the right side next season to then compete with Liljegren for minutes?
I can believe he’s not thrilled right now, and the signing of Marc Giordano likely didn’t help him to have a positive feeling about his future on the Leafs. There are teams out there who would play Sandin at least 13 minutes a night and put him on the second unit power play with a chance to get on the first unit and get even more ice time. The Leafs are unlikely to do that every game.
I would be more inclined to think that he’d be very unhappy next year if he signs a cheap one-year contract and has to fight for a roster spot all season. I’m not sure he’s really at disgruntlement yet, but it’s not implausible. What makes it more plausible is that an offer wouldn’t have to hit $4.2 million to make the Leafs balk at matching it. Unless they have some amazing goalie acquisition scheme that won’t need much cap space, they will struggle to do everything they want to do even if they just give Sandin the Liljegren deal.
The timing on the offer sheet process is as follows: Beginning on July 12, RFAs can negotiate with other teams, but they cannot sign an offer sheet until noon on July 13 when free agency opens. The player cannot elect arbitration and then sign an offer sheet, but that’s the only restriction. Teams cannot prevent an offer sheet from being signed by electing arbitration, but they do get a second window to do that later in July, so the player has to sign that offer sheet before that window opens.
What’s obvious about that timeline is that it would all be going down after the draft. And the draft is where trades are made. And this is, for me, the biggest argument against Sandin signing an offer sheet. If I can see that he might be getting restless, and if Elliotte Friedman saw that back in May, then the Leafs can see that too. And they have to decide what to do about it.
They have several options open to them. They can engage with Sandin, sign him to the same deal as Liljegren and promise him some real opportunities to play. They’d almost have to trade Justin Holl to make that believable. But they have to deliver on the opportunities, or this just becomes next summer’s problem when he asks for a trade — this is the Dermott method, but I don’t see them trading Sandin at the deadline. The Leafs can play hardball, elect arbitration, force Sandin into selecting a one-year deal and then they can ask him to prove he’s worth term. This is the Dermott method from one year prior to last summer.
Those choices kick the can down the road and preserve the defence depth at affordable prices, and that all seems sensible. But what if Sandin is more restless than I figure or the Leafs are more cap-strapped than we know? In that case, they might just decide to trade him now, because the biggest reason they might have unseen cap issues is that they have a goalie budget bigger than we all expect.
In that scenario, Sandin won’t ever get to offer sheet time, because they’d do a trade between now and the draft. If I had to guess right now, I’d say the odds of a trade happening are not zero, not even 50%, but they aren’t far off.
A second-round pick on it’s own wouldn’t get a team like Washington a defender like Sandin. But how much more than that would it take? A prospect? Another pick? It’s not like Sandin has the certain future of a regular NHL roster player. The biggest argument against the offer sheet idea is that a team that wants him can likely get him for a reasonable trade price and then sign him to a non-silly contract.
But that’s not how the summer game is played. Offer sheets are fun, trades of good players are not fun. So, you tell me, would Sandin even sign an offer sheet?
What are the odds Sandin would even sign an offer sheet?
This poll is closed
Less than 50%
More than 50%