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Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning looks on prior to the game against the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center on November 19, 2009 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images) (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning looks on prior to the game against the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center on November 19, 2009 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images) (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

James Mirtle

Cautious NHL bosses play nice on Stamkos, Doughty Add to ...

They are two of the best and brightest young stars in the NHL, and both are locked deep in difficult contract negotiations with their teams after only their third season.

One is Tampa Bay Lightning centre Steven Stamkos, the first overall pick in the 2008 draft who has already hit the 90-point mark twice, finishing fifth in league scoring in both his second and third seasons.

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The other is Los Angeles Kings defenceman Drew Doughty, taken right after Stamkos and considered one of the top 10 blueliners in the game, already earning a Norris Trophy nomination and winning gold with the Canadian Olympic team.

Just 21 years old and set to be major contributors in the league for the next dozen years, Stamkos and Doughty would seem to be the perfect candidates for an offer sheet from another team.

And yet general managers of the teams who could go that route appear to be relatively ambivalent about the possibility.

"I have no comment on that," Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon said soon after spending more than $20-million in cap space on second- and third-tier players on July 1.

"I don't contemplate doing one right now," Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke said earlier this week.

Since former Detroit Red Wings star Sergei Fedorov received a six-year, $38-million offer from the Carolina Hurricanes in 1998, there have only been six offer sheets in the NHL - all of which have come in the past five summers and under the league's new collective agreement.

Of those, only the Edmonton Oilers' 2007 pitch for big winger Dustin Penner proved successful, and they gave up their first three picks in 2008 to sign him for $4.25-million a season for five years.

On the whole, offer sheets have produced mixed results, which explains in part why they remain rare, even with top talent like Stamkos and Doughty available.

Here's a closer look at the top four reasons why the NHL hasn't seen them made more often:

COST IS TOO PROHIBITIVE

Landing a superstar with an offer sheet is no easy task. Both Stamkos and Doughty are currently negotiating deals for more than $7-million a season, but a team putting forward an offer sheet would have to offer far more in the hopes that the Lightning or Kings wouldn't match the contract.

Only four players in the NHL have a salary cap hit of more than $8-million (Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Eric Staal) and that would likely be only a starting point for an offer sheet for Stamkos or Doughty.

Then there's the draft picks. If the Lightning or Kings chose not to match a deal that was worth $7.835-million or more a season, they would receive the next four first-round picks of the team that made the offer sheet.

TEAMS ARE AFRAID OF RETALIATION

Another worry for any team making an offer sheet is that the team on the other side of things would then make a bid for their restricted free agents.

The Leafs, for example, could potentially receive an offer sheet for defenceman Luke Schenn if they went after Doughty, which would drive the price up on both.

Something similar happened in the summer of 2008, when an offer sheet made by the Vancouver Canucks on St. Louis Blues centre David Backes was quickly matched by the Blues and met with one for Canucks winger Steve Bernier.

Neither team got the player they were after but both were left paying higher prices for their youngsters.

THEY CREATE BAD BLOOD

One doesn't have to look past the Penner situation to see how an offer sheet can create a war of words. Oilers GM Kevin Lowe and Burke got into a legendary public spat after the offer was made, with Burke calling the move "colossal stupidity."

Sabres GM Darcy Regier wasn't much happier with the Oilers' unsuccessful play for Thomas Vanek.

"What this amounted to was an exercise in futility," Regier said at the time.

The three GMs involved haven't made a significant deal with one another since.

THEY RARELY WORK

The No. 1 reason offer sheets rarely come into play is that they simply don't result in star players changing teams. Before Penner, Chris Gratton was the last player to change teams by way of an offer sheet and that was in a heavily disputed case in 1997.

It's widely believed around the league that the Lightning and Kings would match any offer for Stamkos or Doughty.

Follow on Twitter: @mirtle

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