A Look Ahead: RFA Qualifying Offers

The 2011 offseason is going to be an important one for the Rangers. They have six (five key) NHL roster players headed to restricted free agency. There are another 11 players in the minors that are headed to restricted free agency as well. As per CapGeek, the Rangers have 25 players under contract for next season, with these 17 headed for restricted free agency. Add Dylan McIlrath and Carl Hagelin to this, and the Rangers have 44 players either under contract or in restricted free agency. The maximum allowed contracts for any team is fifty.

Qualifying offers are a way of ensuring that the Rangers receive any offer sheet reward if another team poaches a RFA. For example, if the Rangers do not qualify Brandon Dubinsky (hypothetical situation here), and the Islanders sign him to an offer sheet, the Rangers would not receive the draft pick compensation. If they do give him a qualifying offer, they would receive the draft pick compensation.

Monetary amounts for qualifying offers are as follows:

  • Salary < $660,000: The qualifying offer must include a 10% increase on the base salary.
  • Salary between $660,000 and $1 million: The qualifying offer must include a 5% increase on the base salary.
  • Salary > $1 million: The player does not have to receive an increase in salary for a qualifying offer.

Note that the term salary here means total salary minus any signing bonus. As an example, Pavel Valentenko has a $585,000 salary, but his signing bonus was $85,000, so his total salary was $500,000. It’s a bit confusing, but the table below will help.

Let’s look at the Rangers’ RFAs, what their 2010 salary was, and what their 2011 qualifying offer would be (all numbers courtesy of CapGeek).

Player 2010 Base Salary 2011 Qualifying Offer
Brandon Dubinsky $2 million $2 million
Ryan Callahan $2.4 million $2.4 million
Artem Anisimov $765,000 $803,250
Brian Boyle $550,000 $605,000
Michael Sauer $500,000 $550,000
Matt Gilroy $2.1 million $2.1 million
Chad Johnson $595,000 $654,400
Stu Bickel $787,500 (total salary – bonus) $826,875
Pavel Valentenko $500,000 (total salary – bonus) $550,000
John Mitchell $725,000 $762,250
Dale Weise $550,000 (total salary – bonus) $605,000
Matt McCue $550,000 (total salary – bonus) $605,000
Chad Kolarik $550,000 $605,000
Tysen Dowzak $500,000 (total salary – bonus) $550,000
Devin DiDiomete $500,000 $550,000
Justin Soryal $500,000 $550,000
Brodie Dupont $500,000 $550,000

Looking at the numbers, the players that will definitely get qualifying offers are Dubinsky, Callahan, Anisimov, Boyle, and Sauer. I don’t think anyone else gets an offer. The reasoning here is that many of these players will not command an increase in salary on the open market, so why give them a mandated raise via the qualifying offer? Plus, any team looking to poach one of these players won’t have to give the Rangers anything in return, as the draft pick compensation doesn’t kick in until roughly $1 million in salary on the qualifying offer. There’s no reason to qualify players and give them a mandatory raise if no potential poacher will sign them for less than $1 million, which no one else on this list will get.

The 800 pound gorilla in the room is Gilroy, who at $2.1 million will likely not be receiving a qualifying offer. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, as Gilroy is simply not a $2.1 million NHL defenseman. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good bottom pairing defenseman with offensive skill, but he needs to be more consistent to be worth that kind of money. The Rangers will likely try to get that number down to a more reasonable dollar amount, or trade the Boston U grad.

Qualifying offers are tricky beasts. For certain players, they are a necessity to at least protect the key players on the roster. For most, it’s just a technicality that is often ignored for the reasons mentioned above. The Rangers will definitely be qualifying their key pieces, which should make most breathe easy. Qualifying offers don’t necessarily mean that the player will accept, it just means the Rangers are retaining their right to compensation. Expect each of the qualified players to receive significantly more in salary.