Dustin Penner (2007) is the only restricted free agent to change teams, and he cost the Oilers plenty. (Jason O. Watson/US Presswire)
By Stu Hackel
Let’s file this post under the category of things we have to cover (our SI.com hockey page overlord John Rolfe likens it to eating your spinach). It’s less fun than, say, debating Chris Osgood’s career or trying to figure out who has the right to claim the history of the Winnipeg Jets, but it contains useful information and perhaps even essential vitamins and minerals. So open up and start chewing.
Few things are more restrictive than restricted free agency in the NHL. Hundreds of players have been RFAs since the current CBA was adopted in 2005, but only six have received offer sheets — Ryan Kesler, Thomas Vanek, Dustin Penner, David Backes, Steve Bernier and Niklas Hjalmarsson – and of those, only Penner changed teams.
That’s something to keep in mind when you hear people urge NHL GMs to take a run at an RFA. The 2011 group is stellar, led by Steven Stamkos, Drew Doughty, Shea Weber, Zach Parise, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Devin Setoguchi, Luke Schenn, Kyle Okposo, and Zach Bogosian. Any club would be instantly better with one of them in its lineup. But the RFA system is too onerous to permit player movement. Three weeks into free agency, some of these guys have re-upped with their old teams and it’s folly to think any of them are going anywhere other than back to where they came from.