Washington Capitals goaltenders Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov are both restricted free agents (RFA’s) this off-season. While the Capitals have a majority of the control over whether the RFA players remain with a team or not, there are a few intricacies related to the re-signing of an RFA player that might need to be addressed in the process.
The first step for the Capitals will be to extend qualifying offers to Vanecek and Samsonov, regardless of whether or not the team intend to keep them in the fold, because team’s must extend a qualifying offer to an RFA in order to retain negotiation rights. If a player does not receive a qualifying offer, the player becomes an unrestricted free agent (UFA) and can then negotiate with any team without restrictions.
A Qualifying Offer is an official Standard Player Contract (SPC) offer which is for one year in length, which can be subject to salary arbitration should the player be eligible. Team’s have until the later of June 25th or the first Monday after the NHL Entry Draft to submit Qualifying Offers. [Note: The 2022 NHL Entry Draft is scheduled for July 7, so the following Monday makes the deadline July 11.]
Submitting a Qualifying Offer gives the club the right of first refusal to match any “offer sheet” (see below) submitted by another team or receive draft pick compensation. If the player rejects the qualifying offer, they remain an RFA and their rights are retained by the team.
The qualifying offer is calculated from the players base salary (NHL salary minus signing bonus), and at minimum must meet the season’s minimum salary requirements. The requirements for 2022 according to CapFriendly:
- 110% of the base salary if the base salary is less than or equal to $660,000
- 105% of the base salary if the base salary is greater than $660,000 or less than $1,000,000. However, this qualifying offer cannot exceed $1,000,000.
- 100% of the base salary if the base salary is equal to or greater than $1,000,000.
- CBA Reference 10.2 (a) (ii).
Ilya Samsonov currently makes $2,000,000 and Vitek Vanecek currently makes $716,667 per season. However, both goaltenders are arbitration eligible.
Further complicating matters related to signing RFA’s is the fact that other teams could potentially extend an “offer sheet” to RFA players. Goaltenders are in high-demand across the league and the Canadiens have previously expressed interest in Samsonov, so it’s not impossible we could see this happen to one or even both goaltenders.
An “offer sheet” is a formal contract that must be signed by the player. However, if an outside team does sign Vanecek or Samsonov to an offer sheet, the Capitals will have the right to match the offer to retain the player.
Although somewhat rare, in 2019 the Montreal Canadiens signed Sebastian Aho to a five-year deal (offer sheet) which was quickly matched by the Carolina Hurricanes to keep him in Carolina.
In response to the Canadiens’ attempted theivery, the Hurricanes signed Montreal Canadiens’ RFA forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi to a one-year offer sheet worth more than $6.1MM last summer. The Canadiens decided they didn’t want to match the offer, thus sending Kotkaniemi to Carolina.
If a player is successfully acquired via an offer sheet, the team that loses the RFA player is eligible for compensation, which is based on the average salary of the league. Here are this year’s thresholds, according to CapFriendly:
|$1,386,490 or less||No compensation|
|$1,386,491 to $2,100,472||Third-round pick|
|$2,100,473 to $4,201,488||Second-round pick|
|$4,201,489 to $6,302,230||First and third-round picks|
|$6,302,231 to $8,402,975||First, second and third-round picks|
|$8,402,976 to $10,503,720||Two firsts, a second and third-round picks|
|Over $10,503,721||Four first-round picks|
As a result, Samsonov would garner a third or second-round pick, while Vanecek would likely return no compensation. Fin, this depends on final contract numbers.
The wild card in all of this is the offer made by the outside team. A team could potentially high-ball an offer for Vanecek and/or Samsonov at a salary the Capitals are unwilling or unable (salary cap) to match, thus strong-arming a player away from the team.
The Capitals are in the drivers seat with regards to what will happen with Vanecek and Samsonov, but there are a few challenges ahead. A lot will depend on the variables related to re-signing Vanecek and Samsonov.
We should first hear about qualifying offers and then if either Vanecek or Samsonov have chosen arbitration.
By Jon Sorensen