Brenden Kichton and the “Low-Ball Offer”

Kevin Schultz, Islanders Point Blank:

A funny thing happens when a Canadian kid drafted in the fifth round doesn’t get offered a contract by a (until this past season) cellar-dweller team in New York; a few folks in the Canadian media decide go to bat for him. This is what has happened in the case of Brenden Kichton — who the Islanders selected in the 5th round in 2011 and who re-entered the draft this past June — and it’s bizarre.

Over the past week or so, the media has been telling Kichton’s story and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s the summer, and he’s a fairly unique story. Kichton’s home-town paper had a level-headed article on his “unique situation.” The Winnipeg Sun, which has a reason to slant things towards the hometown Jets who selected Kichton this past June in the seventh round, called it “confusing” but didn’t take the gloves off.

But the most bizarre take is Yahoo’s Kelly Friesen not-so-impartially explaining that not signing Kichton is just another bad decision by the Islanders:

It’s not that surprising to see the Islanders make a puzzling move. Their GM did, after all, offer all of his draft picks in 2012 to move up two spots to the second pick… Snow rushed Nino Niederreiter…He later traded Niederreiter, who he drafted over Carolina Hurricanes star Jeff Skinner, to the Minnesota Wild for 25-year-old Cal Clutterbuck, who scored 10 points this year, and a third-round pick.

Usually, you’re not supposed take up your subject’s cause when attempting to write objectively but I guess that was thrown out the window in this case. Friesen doubled down on his Kichton hype on Twitter, responding to a comment about Kichton being passed up until the seventh round by saying it was “kind of like Henrik Lundqvist and Henrik Zetterberg.” If only we all had such clear foresight.

And then Slam! Sports got in on the act the other day:

Kichton was given a low-ball offer by the organization that year and didn’t receive another this June

Let’s clear up how this all seems to have gone down.

For Kichton the player, to have sour feelings about things not working out with the Islanders is completely understandable. I don’t think anyone in his position would be thrilled to not get a contract offer, or a “low-ball offer”, from the Isles and have to re-enter the draft.

But that “low-ball” offer that has been written about is sort of how this whole entry draft system works.

For non-collegiate and un-signed players, their draft rights lapse after a year. So basically, a team could lose a player only one year after drafting that player if the team chooses not to tender them what is called a “bonafide offer” by June 1st of the following year. But the vast majority of the time, players are given those offers. And the vast majority of the time, the players do not accept those offers. This is usually just a paper transaction and is largely insignificant, which is why we perceive teams as having the rights to players for two years after they are drafted. In reality, teams only have rights to these players for one year, and that extends to two years if the team makes that bona fide offer to the player after the first year.

Here’s a great definition of what a bona fide offer is. And Here’s Winging It in Motown to explain (emphasis mine):

Once a player is drafted, his team essentially has until next June to keep exclusive rights to him. Here’s where all of the age-based considerations/exceptions come into play. In reality, nobody of note becomes draft re-eligible after one year.

To do so, a player has to be drafted, not hit a number of extremely-common situations players his age go through, and not be tendered a Bona Fide Offer (they have to at least offer him the league minimum on the entry-level deal he’s entitled to based on his age.)

That “league minimum… entry-level deal” sounds an awful lot like a low-ball offer, which is likely why most players don’t accept these bona fide offers. That sounds exactly like what Kichton got. Back to Friesen’s article:

Islanders GM Garth Snow didn’t even make the 6-foot, 195-pound Kichton an offer [in 2013] after he turned down the Islanders’ first offer in the summer of 2012.

And what offer was Kichton likely to receive one year after being drafted? That’s right, a bona fide offer that is a minimum-level offer and basically a paper transaction. We don’t know for sure, but that sure sounds like it fits the bill.

This year on May 31, the Islanders tendered bona fide offers to their non-collegiate and un-signed draftees from the 2012 draft class: Ville Pokka, Loic Leduc, Jesse Graham and Adam Pelech. The players likely only had a 30-day window in which to sign those deals, and more than a month later, none of them jumped at the chance and signed. Most likely, that’s because they know that if the Islanders do intend to sign them, they’ll get a better deal a year later when the Islanders face the possibility of permanently losing their rights (as happened with Kichton and Mitchell Theoret this year). For example, former 5th rounder John Persson is making around 20% more than the NHL and AHL league minimums, and that scales up the higher up the player goes on the draft board and how badly the NHL club wants the player.

Based on the Yahoo article, it seems as though Kichton got a bona fide offer in the summer of 2012 to retain his rights, which is by it’s very nature a “low-ball offer.” Kitchton didn’t take that offer, as most players don’t, and then watched as the Islanders drafted seven defenders in June 2012. The Islanders then, apparently, chose not to offer Kichton another contract given the mass of bodies they have on defense and, possibly, what they saw in scouting him. As it stands, they have 14 defenders signed for next season plus a whole heap of un-signed defenders from the 2012 and 2013 draft classes.

As for Kichton’s huge points totals, he put up more than a point per game this season in Spokane but that was as an over-age player in the WHL. Kichton was a 21-year old playing against kids who were mostly 17, 18 and 19. All the top-tier talent that is worth their weight in NHL-level skill, and other players who are AHL eligible after signing ELCs, bolt the league well before 21 (for example, Tavares left after his 18-year old season and Casey Cizikas left after his 19-year old season).

It’s understandable that Kichton, who put up some huge numbers in the WHL, would be upset that those numbers didn’t earn him an NHL contract. For the Islanders, it was likely a numbers game, in terms of how many defenders they have in their system and that their opinion of Kichton clearly wasn’t very high. For those reasons, they didn’t offer him more than that league minimum ELC in 2012.

And with that, we lay to rest the Curious Case of Brenden Kichton for good.