In this article I will explain NHL free agency and how it works. Every year, after the NHL season ends and the Stanley Cup has been won, all the awards have been presented and the NHL draft has been completed, comes the off-season. Players can relax at the beach, play golf and spend quality time with family. For NHL General Managers there is no off-season however, and no rest. On July 1 a kind of frenzy starts as free agents hit the market and GMs’ attempt to sign players and improve their teams.
Players first entering the NHL must sign an “entry-level” contract. Those between the ages of 18 and 21 must sign for three years, those aged 22 to 23 sign for two years and those 24 or older can sign for a single year. The maximum “entry-level” salary is $925,000 plus bonuses per year. When these “entry-level” contracts expire the players become restricted free agents (RFAs’) provided they have not reached 27 years of age. UFABET
All players under 27 and with less than 7 years service are restricted free agents when their contract expires. Teams must extend a “qualifying offer” prior to July 1 to its restricted free agents to retain negotiating rights to those players.
- Players making less than $660,000 must be offered a 10% raise.
- Players making between $660,000 and $1,000,000 must be offered a 5% raise.
- Players making over $1,000,000 must be offered at least the same.
- An RFA must sign an NHL contact by December 1 to be eligible to play the remainder of the season.
- If the team does not make a qualifying offer the player becomes an unrestricted free agent.
- If the player does not accept the qualifying offer he remains an RFA.
- Teams and players have the right to ask for salary arbitration to settle contract disputes. A team can take a player to arbitration once in his career, and cannot ask for a salary reduction greater than 15 percent. Players can ask for salary arbitration as often as they want.
If a restricted free agent has not signed his qualifying offer or is not going to arbitration he is open to offers from other teams. If the player chooses to sign an offer sheet from another team then his original team will be notified. That team then has seven days to either match the offer or let the player go to the new team. The team that “matches” the offer cannot trade the player for one year. If the offer is not “matched” then the new team must compensate the original team on a sliding scale depending on the value of the contract.
- Offer more than $7,835,219 per season the team loses four first-round picks to the player’s old team.
- For a contract worth between $6,268,176 and $7,835,219 per year, the acquiring team gives up two first-round picks, one second rounder, and one third.
- There are another four levels of compensation, going down to a contract worth up to $1,034,249 per year, for which there is no compensation.
An unrestricted free agent (UFA) is any player whose contact has expired, is at least 27 years of age or has at least seven years playing in the NHL. Beginning on July 1 a UFA is free to negotiate and sign with any team. Regardless of which team he chooses to sign with or the terms of his contract there is no compensation to the original team.