A couple days ago I had suggested, at MC79's site, that a team (not necessarily the Oilers but some team) might be interested in signing Capitals C Niklas Backstrom to an offer sheet. I had been thinking that Washington would be pinched to the cap and might not be able/willing to keep Backstrom at a price of, say, $8,500,000. I can't speak towards their willingness to spend that much on Backstrom, but a quick look at their cap position for next season suggests they could indeed fit Backstrom at that price, but probably not while keeping everyone they'd like. WSH currently has 36.7 mil committed for the 2010/11 season, on 7 F, 5 D, and Varlamov. So, including Backstrom at 8.5 mil, they would have 45.2 mil committed while still needing to sign 4 F, 2 D, and a G, with notable unsigned players including Fleischman, Fehr, Morrisonn, Jurcina, and Schultz. So they can keep Backstrom, but it would cost them a chunk of that depth (barring other moves they might like to make). So, I don't think the Capitals are as vulnerable to an offer sheet as I had thought before really examining their cap situation.
That said, if he remains unsigned come July 1st I wouldn't be terribly surprised if a team or two takes a run at him. We are talking about a 22 year old C currently 4th in NHL scoring; a player whose previous two years were a 69 point rookie campaign followed by an 88 point season as a sophomore.
One might expect that the only teams willing to sign Backstrom to an offer sheet, given the compensation cost of 4 - 1st round picks, would be the teams that project themselves to finish near the top of the standings in the near future. However, projecting the future isn't an exact science, so who knows exactly which teams might look at themselves as division contenders with Backstrom. Any team signing Backstrom to an offer sheet would require both the cap AND budget room, along with the necessary compensation. At the moment, all 29 other teams have the required compensation for such an offer sheet, including Toronto.
Some teams that might contemplate an offer sheet for Backstrom:
ANA - The Ducks are clearing up a bunch of money this summer and have some pretty good pieces in place. Adding Backstrom would give them 4 good, young players to spread around their top 2 lines in Getzlaf, Perry, Ryan, and Backstrom.
COL - They have the cap room and the budget. If they project that they won't be near the bottom of the league with Backstrom, they might be a bit of a darkhorse. Then again, it's not hard to see them passing if they are worried about coming up with money for some of their young players over the next couple of seasons. And they may well be happy with Stastny and Duchene as their top 2 C's, and think that 8.5 mil could be put to better use elsewhere in the lineup.
DAL - My understanding is that the Stars will be looking to cut payroll, so maybe I should just skip them. That said, they only have Richards on the payroll for one more year, so it's certainly possible in terms of budget and cap room going forward if they are willing to spend.
DET - have the cap room, but I'm not sure DET would be willing to give Backstrom the kind of contract it would probably take for WSH to decline matching. The same holds true for NJD.
EDM - I would be surprised if the Oilers would offer sheet Backstrom, but I'll take a guess at EDM's hypothetical lineup having signed Backstrom at the end.
LAK - might have the cap room, but it'd be tight and I think they re more likely to look at a UFA for free and on a shorter term, if possible, because they've got a lot of young guys who might need raises fairly soon. That said, Backstrom would fit in VERY well with LA's core in terms of age.
NYR - they look pretty tight to the cap to be attempting to sign Backstrom, but Sather was able to move Gomez when I didn't think he'd be able to, so who knows?
STL - This is actually a decent fit if STL is so inclined. He fits with their younger players, they seemingly have decent young talent coming in. That said, like LA it appears they like building through the draft , so maybe they'd rather spend money on Kovalchuk and keep their picks if they're going to sign a big ticket player?
SJS - Could, in theory, let Marleau go, opening up 6.3 mil in cap room. If they can get Nabokov back at a pay decrease, they might open up the cap room right there. Is it worth the 4 - 1sts to do so?
TOR - Fan revolt if Burke were to take this route?
With regards to Edmonton, they do have the budget room, and could make the cap space, but it's questionable if they'd be willing to sacrifice 4 1st round picks to acquire Backstrom given how they finished this season. But, for fun, here's a hypothetical roster that fits (maybe? - see below) under the cap, provided they trade Souray for a pick or D making 3 mil or less, and trade or bury Nilsson, Moreau, and O'Sullivan. Given the following roster, would you have any interest in signing Backstrom to an offer sheet that costs Edmonton 4 1st round picks?
Penner Backstrom (8.5) Hemsky
Hall (3.0) Horcoff New F (1.25)
Cogliano (1.5) Gagner (3.0) Eberle
Potulny (0.7) Pouliot (0.7) Stortini
Jones, Brule (1.2)
New D (3.0) New D (1.5)
Smid Johnson (0.6)
New G (1.5)
This hypothetical roster has a cap hit of 58.1 mil, with roughly 3 mil in bonuses. It would leave the Oilers below the current cap number of 56.8 mil, so they Oilers would comply with the cap provided the cap doesn't decrease, and provided teams are allowed to exceed the cap with their bonuses which may be unlikely at this point.