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Tuesdays With Hildy: Should RFA Poaching Be Used More Often?

We all remember last year, when the Vancouver Canucks reeeally wanted David Backes. Mike Gilles signed our very own Chuck Norris to an offer sheet, which the Blues matched in a heartbeat. John Davidson then decided to show his displeasure by signing Steve Bernier to an offer sheet, forcing Gilles to match the $2.5 million dollar offer. Matter solved between the two teams, both of whom had the cap space to spare, but it was highlighted in the press as an example of why offer sheets are verboten, or at least considered impolite. Granted, the Brian Burke/Kevin Lowe feud stemming from the Great Dustin Penner Affair is the daddy of all offer sheet feuds, but any time an offer sheet's tendered, well, it gets press.

Most recently, the San Jose Sharks tendered an offer sheet to Niklas Hjalmarsson of the Chicago Blackhawks. It was a four year, $14 million contract that the Sharks could afford easily. The Blackhawks, on the other hand, are still in the middle of trying to work out cap issues. The defenseman, who scored 2 goals and 15 assists during 77 regular season games, was only signed for $666,000 on a two way contract. He was due a payraise, but one to about $3,500,000 was not one that the Blackhawks were planning on. The Hawks matched the contract offer, and now have about $113,000 in cap space remaining to sign a goalie, two defensemen, and three forwards. Have fun with that.

Why am I bringing this up? People have suggested Duck poaching.

Bobby Ryan would fit perfectly with the team. The 23 year old scored 35 goals last season at a salary level of about $765,000 (not counting bonuses). His cap hit was only a shade under $2 million. And apparently the Ducks are trying to low-ball him in the RFA negotiations. He remains unsigned. Why? Ryan rejected a 5 year, $25 million deal by the Ducks. $5 million a year for a 35 goal scorer might seem a bit pricey, even for a team with the cap space for it, but if people wanted the Blues to go after Kovalchuk and his $10 million a season price tag, this is even better. Ryan will produce slightly less goals than Kovalchuk for just over half of the asking price.

What would the Blues have to give up?

Under the 2005 CBA, a player making a salary in Ryan's range for the previous season warrants one first round, second round, and third round draft pick. That, plus the salary, is what the Blues would need to fork over for Bobby Ryan.

We need another goal scorer - Brad Boyes is not a surefire thing to come bouncing back next season. Someone needs to supply that offense. If Boyes does rebound, then the Blues will potentially have two thirty goal scorers on the team.

That being said, does the common courtesy of not trying to poach players from other teams override the need to improve your own club? Nice or ruthless - what say you?