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Offer sheet scandals

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

On the heels of Chicago matching San Jose’s four-year, $14-million offer sheet to young blueliner Niklas Hjalmarsson, we got to thinking about other such offers over the years.

Some cursory research reminded us that offer sheets go all the way back to the summer of 1986, when rugged Maple Leafs defenseman Gary Nylund jumped ship and signed with Chicago. The Leafs were awarded Ken Yaremchuk, Jarome Dupont and a fourth-rounder in 1987 as compensation.

Nylund set off the offer sheet phenomenon and, by the 1990s, robber barons around the league – and especially in St. Louis – were doing their best to pilfer players from opponents. The practice all but disappeared by the early 2000s, but the salary cap has brought it back, albeit to a lesser extent.

Here are’s Top 10 offer sheet scandals:

10. Scott Stevens, 1994

The Blues lost Stevens as compensation for an earlier poaching (more on that later) and tried to steal him back from New Jersey with a four-year, $17-million offer sheet, a price many later said helped drive up salaries and lead to the abbreviated 1994-95 season and 2004-05 lockout. The Devils matched and retained their really expensive captain.

9. The Backes-Bernier Affair, 2008

When Vancouver tried to snatch young power forward David Backes from St. Louis with a three-year, $7.5 million contract offer, the Blues matched and a week later gave the Canucks a taste of their own medicine by offering the recently acquired Steve Bernier $2.5 million for one season. Eyebrows were raised and ‘Good for yous’ were offered. Backes remains a Blue, Bernier is now a Florida Panther.

8. Petr Nedved, 1994

After a 38-goal, 71-point season in 1993-94, the 22-year-old Nedved wanted to be paid like a star. When the Canucks refused, Nedved joined the Canadian national team. But St. Louis dangled $12 million over three years and Nedved jumped at it in March. An arbiter awarded playmaking center Craig Janney and a second-rounder to the Canucks as compensation, although the two teams worked out something different after the fact.

7. Keith Tkachuk, 1995

The last thing a financially flagging franchise like the Winnipeg Jets of the mid-’90s needed was to lose their captain. But Chicago attempted to steal Tkachuk away with a gargantuan five-year, $17.2-million contract offer. The Jets stepped up and matched, but played just one more season in Winnipeg.

6. Joe Sakic, 1997

After losing Mark Messier to Vancouver, Rangers GM Neil Smith targeted Sakic with a three-year, $21-million offer. Colorado matched and player salaries continued to, in some people’s minds, spiral out of control.

5. Thomas Vanek, 2007

The Summer of Intrigue in Edmonton began with GM Kevin Lowe’s seven-year, $50-million offer sheet to sniper Vanek, an unheard of price. Lowe knew he had Sabres GM Darcy Regier between a rock and a hard place. Buffalo decided to match and not risk further alienating a fan base that had already seen Danny Briere and Chris Drury walk that summer.

4. Dustin Penner, 2007

When Lowe failed to nab Vanek he turned his sights on Anaheim behemoth Penner with a five-year, $21.25-million offer. Ducks GM Brian Burke famously went ballistic and set off a media fire storm, publicly ranting and raving, and accusing Lowe of running the Oilers into the ground before ultimately letting Penner go. Anaheim was awarded first, second and third round picks as compensation.

3. Scott Stevens, 1990

No one in league history has been as much of a poacher as former St. Louis GM Ron Caron. In 1990 he rolled the dice and made Washington’s Stevens the highest-paid blueliner in the NHL with a four-year, $5.1-million contract offer. An arbiter awarded the Capitals five first round draft picks, putting the Blues’ future pipeline into question.

2. Sergei Fedorov, 1998

The feud between Carolina owner Peter Karmanos and Detroit owner Mike Illitch is a famous one. And it was never more heated than when Karmanos attempted to lure Fedorov to the Hurricanes with a mammoth six-year, $38-million contract that could have paid the Russian up to $28 million with bonuses the first year (one of the clauses was based on the team making the semifinal, something the Canes were far less likely than Detroit to do). The Wings matched and the war continued.

1. Brendan Shanahan, 1991

A year after landing Stevens, Caron went after New Jersey’s burgeoning star winger Shanahan, trying to get him in a Blues uniform. He got his man when the Devils refused to match the offer, but the controversy didn’t end there. The teams went to arbitration, with the Blues offering Curtis Joseph, Rod Brind’Amour and two draft picks as compensation. But the arbiter leaned Jersey’s way and awarded the Devils – dah, de-da, dah – Scott Stevens… meaning the total cost to St. Louis for signing Shanny was five first round picks and Stevens. Ouch.

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