Typically, restricted free agents are off limits.
In the past few years the hockey world has only seen a handful of offer sheets tendered to RFAs, with the Buffalo Sabres’ Thomas Vanek and this offseason’s saga with the Nashville Predator’s Shea Weber being the most prevalent examples.
But with the new collective bargaining agreement looming, many general managers may see this as their last chance to tender an RFA with an offer sheet, especially with the terms and money that Weber saw from the Philadelphia Flyers.
So is Sabres general manager Darcy Regier potentially looking at any RFAs?
There are four major restricted free agents left on the market right now: the Montreal Canadiens‘ P.K. Subban, the Winnipeg Jets’ Evander Kane, the Sabres’ Tyler Ennis and the Colorado Avalanche‘s Ryan O’Reilly.
O’Reilly is a truly interesting case. After a career year, he saw fellow teammate and RFA center Matt Duchene get signed to what could only be considered a hometown discount at two years, $7 million.
A truly rising star in the league, O’Reilly would give the Sabres three young, talented centers, cementing the pivot position for years to come. O’Reilly will never be one to score 100 points a year, but he has the potential to be the league’s next Chris Drury-type: As strong offensively as he is defensively.
What is truly interesting, however, is that both Ennis and O’Reilly remain unsigned. Kane is a power forward who plays left wing and Subban is one of the league’s most talented young defenseman, so they don’t play much of a role in the O’Reilly contract negotiations.
Ennis is a different story. Ennis moved to center after coming back from his second ankle injury last season and lit it up for the Sabres, scoring 29 points in his last 30 games. Ennis is an excellent comparable to O’Reilly for contract terms.
Regier said in a press conference earlier this week that the negotiations with Ennis were progressing well and all indications were that he would be signed soon.
But does O’Reilly not being signed have something to do with Darcy? Probably not.
But it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that Regier is talking to the Avs’ general manager Greg Sherman about acquiring O’Reilly, especially seeing they are loaded up the middle with Duchene, Paul Stastny, and blue chip prospect Joey Hishon in the system.
The possibility is low, but don’t be surprised if Regier pulls a preemptive trade or signs O’Reilly to a lucrative offer sheet.