Today is the NHL's annual "Wait, we don't get to pause between the draft and July 1?" day. Qualifying offers are due to NHL restricted free agents by 5 p.m. EDT, or else the team loses exclusive rights to the player, who can then become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Technically, it's a procedural and paper-moving thing. The minimum offers required are at most 10 percent raises (and that's for the lowest paid RFAs). Plus, it's usually clear to the player or his agent what's going to happen even before the offer arrives. (Of course Dale Tallon found out all to disastrously how very important it is to meet this paper deadline.)
But as explained in previous years' posts, for fans and tea-leave readers this day is a chance to get a sneak peek at a team's plans. Any player not receiving an offer tells you the team is ready to cut bait.
This year the Islanders don't have any high-profile RFAs; the most notable is bottom-six forward Matt Martin, who will surely be qualified. Contrast that with next summer, when both Travis Hamonic and Josh Bailey are set to be RFAs. But today the Isles at least have some names whose yea or nay from the club will hint at organizational depth plans.
First, remember this: A Q.O. is a contract offer, but for most it's only a starting point. Lower players accept their Q.O.'s, better players negotiate for a higher offer.
All the Q.O. does is ensure you retain a player's rights for:
- keeping if he signs/accepts the offer;
- ensuring compensation if he signs as an RFA with another team (so, in effect, that's not happening);
- in the event he signs in Europe like Jesse Joensuu did last summer, you still retain his NHL rights should he decide to return, as Joensuu has.
Also remember this: Although the minimum raise in a qualifying offer is not much, if a player isn't in your plans you still might prefer to let him go rather than keep him as one of your 50 allowable NHL contracts. In other words, if you think a player creates a logjam you don't want and you doubt his ability to fetch anything via trade, just cut the cord rather than let him eat up a contract on the 50-contract limit.
Islanders Restricted Free Agents
The following are the RFA's due qualifying offers.
[UPDATE: The Isles have announced Q.O.'s sent to: Sean Backman, Justin DiBenedetto, Mark Katic, Mikko Koskinen, Tomas Marcinko, Matt Martin, Rhett Rakhshani and Ty Wishart. No surprises -- Romano, McNeely, Riendeau, Alexandrov are off the list.]
Matt Martin - A no-brainer to receive a Q.O. But negotiations afterward might get interesting.
Euro boys Mark Katic, Justin DiBenedetto, Rhett Rakhshani - All three Bridgeport players are reported headed to Europe, so if the Isles have any hopes for their development, they'll submit Q.O.'s just in case. The bonus here is you protect the assets rights without paying out a dime. It's a free year in the parental laboratory, if you have any possibility of wanting them to return. Of course, all three of them could reasonably bet their shots at NHL careers are less than 50/50.
Mikko Koskinen - Koskinen is an interesting one because the Islanders loaned him overseas midseason to alleviate the crowd in the Bridgeport crease. Garth Snow still talks about him as an option behind the other two goalie prospects. The ideal might be to keep his rights while ensuring he gets playing time overseas if not in Bridgeport. Cody Rosen is not walking through that door.
Ty Wishart - The question mark. After getting 20 NHL games in 2010-11 after the Dwayne Roloson trade, Wishart saw only one game in the NHL this year -- an emergency recall at that. Yet he played an important role for the Sound Tigers. His waiver status changed this year, making moving him up and down more problematic. At minimum, you'd think he could maintain an "elder" presence for Bridgeport's young blueline.
Sean Backman and Tony Romano - Even though Romano was left off the Clear Day list, he had a nice finish to the season. Backman's work all year was appreciated too. Useful players, but also the kind that tend to move around in the AHL. (For different reasons; Backman is already 26 and had a low $45k AHL salary last year according to CapGeek.)
Again, offers are due in a formal way by 5 p.m., but news leaks or announcements are posted usually by noon. Around the league, look for the non-offers that might surprise. If any of the above names play out in a way other than you expect, then you will have learned something about how the Islanders view these players. And we all like to learn things, don't we?
Elsewhere, with Real Names
Dwarfing RFA Q.O. news is a real trade of big but underachieving names: Luke Schenn to Philadelphia (to join his brother) for James van Riemsdyk, straight up. Wow. Leafs fans react here. Flyers fans digest things here.
Quick take: Instant win for Toronto, because Schenn has yet to become a good defenseman. But both players are short of their potential -- and JVR's contract is a pricier, longer commitment -- so it's an open book and a delightful gamble on both ends.