NHL announces 2021 offer sheet compensation tiers

Though the offer sheet is seldom used by NHL teams to sign restricted free agents, the trend was bucked in 2019 when the Montreal Canadiens tendered an offer sheet to Carolina Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho. Before that, the last offer sheet signed was all the way back in 2013 when the Calgary Flames tendered an offer to Ryan O’Reilly (then of the Colorado Avalanche).

What is an NHL offer sheet and how does it work?

If you’re unfamiliar with how offer sheets work, CapFriendly has an excellent FAQ on the offer sheet process. Basically, a player who is a restricted free agent can sign a contract with any other team in the NHL. Then, the team that currently owns the player’s rights can choose to either match the contract or not.

If they match the offer, they retain the services of that player under the contract they signed with the other team. If they decline to match the offer, the original team receives compensation from the new team based on the AAV of the contract. In most cases, teams choose to match the offer sheet and the compensation is not a factor. Compensation picks must be the team’s original draft picks, not other picks acquired via trade or otherwise.

However, the compensation tiers change each year based on a number of factors, but a major one is the average player salary in the previous year. As reported by Elliotte Friedman in last week’s 31 Thoughts Blog, the average player salary last year was lower than the previous year, triggering a decrease in the AAV ranges for each offer sheet compensation tier.

2020 vs. 2021 offer sheet compensation tiers

2020 AAV Tier2021 AAV TierUpper AAV ChangeCompensation
$1 – $1,439,820$1 – $1,356,540-$83,280No Compensation
$1,439,821 – $2,181,545$1,356,540 – $2,055,364-$126,1811 Third-Round Pick
$2,181,546 – $4,363,095$2,055,364 – $4,110,732-$252,3631 Second-Round Pick
$4,363,096 – $6,544,640$4,110,732 – $6,166,096-$378,4551 First-Round Pick
1 Third-Round Pick
$6,544,641 – $8,726,188$6,166,096 – $8,221,463-$504,7251 First-Round Pick
1 Second-Round Pick
1 Third-Round Pick
$8,726,189 – $10,907,735$8,221,463 – $10,276,829-$630,9062 First-Round Picks
1 Second-Round Pick
1 Third-Round Pick
$10,907,736 – ∞$10,279,829 – ∞4 First-Round Picks

As you can see in the table above, the compensation has reduced across all tiers. At the very highest tier, the upper AAV is down by over $600k, which makes it more difficult for teams to sign players to offer sheets that won’t be matched.

Which players could be targets of offer sheets in 2021?

According to CapFriendly, there are 289 players that could be tendered offer sheets this offseason. Big names include Patrik Laine, Sam Reinhart, Cale Makar, Rasmus Dahlin, Miro Heiskanen, and Andrei Svechnikov. There are many, many more intriguing names on the list, and with cap space being hard to come by, it’s very possible we see more offer sheets this season than we have in a very long time.

Free agency 2021 could be a lot of fun.

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