On Friday, it seems very likely that Blues forward T.J. Oshie will become a restricted free agent. While a lot would have to happen for him to not be a member of the Blues next year, it could be an exciting process. And when I say exciting process, I mean gut-wrenching because it's conceivable another team will see an offer for a young, exciting player as a decent gamble this offseason.
We don't have any concrete information that Oshie wants to test the restricted waters, but for a player in his position, it's his only leverage with the team that holds his rights. If I were him, of course I'd want to see what my value is on the market, especially this summer. The list of unrestricted free agents is thin. Chinese gymnast thin. The list of impact players starts with Brad Richards. From there, the drop off is rather severe. Sure, Simon Gagne could help your team. Tomas Kaberle is pretty good. Christian Erhoff is a nice player. But the number of sizzle players who could create some buzz is thin. Tampa could make a huge mistake by letting Steven Stamkos get to Friday without a contract, but that would be madness. It would be full-blown Insanity if they didn't match.
There will be second and third line guys getting handsome contract offers for two reasons:
1. The salary cap went up, so general mangers have money to spend and tickets to sell.
2. Because the salary cap went up, the salary floor went up. According to Capgeek, half the teams in the league are below the floor of $48.3 million.
Oshie's case for getting paid is an intriguing one. He doesn't turn 25 until December. He is a strong skater who can play a physical game, is good in the shootout, can reliably kill penalties and spend time on the second power play unit. He can play wing or center (better as a winger now, but could be a center with a little more growth). And for not really accomplishing a ton in his first three seasons, he's got a growing reputation. He's got a list of clips on Youtube (I'd stick the Rick Nash hits here, but I think we've got them memorized). Any general manager that makes a play at overpaying Oshie will make headlines.
Upside: You potentially get an exciting, complementary player that could push your team to another level. Or if the Blues match, you potentially make Oshie more expensive for a couple years for the Blues if they match -- possible motivation for a conference or division foe.
Downside: You get Oshie for more than he's worth and he gets hurt again (49 games played this year, 56 three seasons ago). You piss off John Davidson something fierce and he makes you pay with an offer sheet at some point (See also, Canucks, Vancouver and Bernier, Steve).
The Blues are playing a dangerous game of chicken. Finances are tight. Doug Armstrong says he has some budget to play with, but why is Oshie unsigned? Are Teej's demands too high? Did the Blues only offer a year or two to prove himself after getting suspended for missing practice late in the season and he didn't like the idea? Is Armstrong ready to walk away from the frosted tip wunderkind?
Here's my prediction: Oshie will get an offer sheet. The Blues will take their time and they will probably match the offer. Unless it's close to David Backes money. Then they walk away and accept compensation.
It really would be Go for Osh.
What do you think will happen? Let us know down below.