While it may be considered bad form in "GM-land", I think the Canes could address some of their holes by extending an offer sheet to a select group of RFAs. In essence all that they give up are futures...in some cases lots of futures, but depending on the return, the RFA coming back would be more than worth it. Yes, we all know that there is the distinct possibility of other teams throwing offer sheets at our young, rising stars (Jeff Skinner, for example), but that just requires JR to be proactive and have his guys signed in a timely fashion.
For example, let's look at one of my current favorites, Evander Kane. At 6'2" and almost 200 lbs., he's a prototypical power forward. Add to that his wicked shot, Canes fans should be salivating at the image of him paired with Eric Staal on the 1st line. The soon to be 21 yr. old has put up consistently improving numbers (14, 19, 30 g. and 12, 24, 27 a.) in his 1st three years in the league. He is also under team control for an additional 4 years. Realistically, he will command an annual contract value north of $5.5 million. If I were JR I'd throw 4 years, $25 million at him which means giving up a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round pick in 2013. It buys him out of his RFA years so that offer would be fair. If Winnipeg matches, then we've constrained a division rival financially.
About those 3 draft picks...well, it's a bit of a crap shoot....while I probably wouldn't give up Jeff Skinner, Justin Faulk, and Danny Biega (1st 3 picks of our 2010 draft) for Kane, I'd trade Zach Boychuk, Zac Dalpe, and Michal Jordan (the 1st 3 picks of our 2008 draft - even though Jordan was a 4th rounder) in a heartbeat for him. Our 1st 3 picks in 2011 were Ryan Murphy, Victor Rask, and Keegan Lowe. While it would be tough (Rask is probably my favorite prospect in our system), I'd probably also do that trade. What about other years? Well the Canes drafting seems to have improved but we've still had some suspect efforts. 2009 is the imfamous Paradis/Tlusty draft that also yielded Brian Dumoulin and the ever popular Mattias Lindstrom. Again, I'd trade Tlusty, Dumoulin (if we still had him), and Lindstrom (if we still had him too) to get Evander Kane.
The key point is that while we all love and appreciate the potential of draft picks, eventually you have to make a decision regarding on ice performance. Those draft picks might turn into something great, but the old "bird in the hand" axiom is oft repeated for a reason - cause it's true. Most importantly, our team's core of Staal, Ward, Pitkanen, Gleason, are not getting any younger and we need to be in a win now mode. So trading a years draft to get us into contention would be well worth it.
Who else could we consider for an offer sheet? The cost to get a Shea Weber feels like it would be just too high. I can see essentially using one draft to position the team for 3 or 4 years of strong contention, but Weber would ultimately probably command compensation at the highest two levels...and that just feels like too much of a reach. But who knows, if the offer came in higher than $6.5 million but south of $7.8 million, then it "only" costs two 1sts, a 2nd, and a 3rd. That might be worth it for what Weber brings. On the offensive side of things I'd look at a Kris Versteeg, T.J. Oshie, Jakub Voracek, or even a Colin Wilson. Defensively things are a bit slimmer after Weber, but guys like Michael Del Zotto, Dmitry Kulikov, or Jonathon Blum might make sense and would cost less. Yet none those guys are the defensive stalwart that we really need, so I'd probably stick to looking at forwards (because in reality Nashville isn't going to let Weber get away after losing Suter).
Using the offer sheet strategically, I believe we can really boost our team in critical areas. We also retain the valuable players and prospects that we would have given up in a trade. Best of all they are still assets to either be developed or used to make the team even better.