Yesterday, I wrote up all the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement alphabet soup and legalese regarding young player contracts. For your reading (or napping) pleasure, I addressed 1-way vs. 2-way contracts, waiver requirements and exemptions and draft rights and NHL availability for US college, Canadian junior and European players.
I also posted a chart that details contract, waivers, etc. specifics for each player in the Canes system which you can find on the Canes and Coffee Facebook page. (I would appreciate a page ‘like’ if you visit us on Facebook.)
But what does it all mean for building the 2015-16 Carolina Hurricanes opening day roster?
Short answer – not much. Cam Ward and Eddie Lack are pretty much logged in. I guess the one scenario that could come into to play is the call up of Drew MacIntyre if one of the two regulars gets injured. The Canes can get MacIntyre up to the NHL easily enough, but because of age/experience, he would need to clear waivers to then go back to Charlotte. It is not a huge risk, but if another team had injury issues in net and no option of their own for a fill in, there is a slight chance that MacIntyre could be claimed/borrowed as an NHL fill in.
The Canes currently have 9 forwards on 1-way contracts plus 2 more (Rask, Lindholm) who are on 2-way contracts but very unlikely to see the AHL. The list includes all of the obvious NHLers, but it also includes a couple players in Chris Terry and Riley Nash who just received their first 1-way contracts. Per my blog yesterday, this means a couple things. First, the Canes get no financial discount by sending these players to the AHL. Their salaries are the same regardless of where they play. Second, both players would need to clear waivers and not be claimed by another NHL team on the way to Charlotte. Probably more significantly, the fact that Ron Francis signed both to 1-way deals is a pretty strong indication that he expects them to play this season at the NHL level.
Past the first 11 players, all of the other options in the system at forward are on 2-way contracts. Most of those players have minimal NHL experience, so they can freely go back and forth from the NHL and AHL without the risk of being claimed by another team off of waivers. Probably the biggest exception is Zach Boychuk who because of age and NHL experience must clear waivers to go from the NHL to the AHL.
Overall, the random CBA legalese should have minimal impact on the Canes forward roster to start the season except that Riley Nash and Chris Terry are much more locked into NHL roles to start the upcoming season because of their contract situations.
This is where it gets interesting. Right now the Canes have 5 players signed to 1-way NHL contracts. Unless traded or injured, Justin Faulk, James Wisniewski, Ron Hainsey, John-Michael Liles and Michal Jordan are all pretty certain to have spots somewhere within the 6 defenseman and 7th extra on the 2015-16 Carolina Hurricanes opening night roster.
That leaves two spots to be won. As a veteran AHLer who has enough mileage at the lower level, I think Michal Jordan is fine holding down either a playing spot in the 3rd pairing or being the 7th in case of injury or need for fill in duty. The Canes would not likely slot one of the kids (Hanifin, Fleury, Slavvin, Pesce, Murphy, etc.) in the 7th spot for any extended period of time. These players’ development is much better served playing 22 minutes per night at a lower level than watching games from the press box while munching on popcorn.
I am record (repeatedly) as liking the idea of signing one more veteran defenseman (Ehrhoff!) to build a true(er) NHL top 4 for 2015-16 and a bridge that enables the Canes young defenseman to develop and move up the depth chart based on readiness not necessity. But as of right now, the Canes have room for one or two (if Jordan slid to #7 slot) young defensemen to win roster spots. There are sort of two categories of players competing for these slots – one big and flexible and one small and CBA-dictated.
Category 1: Players on 2-way deals with waiver exemptions with complete AHL/NHL flexibility:
What does this mean? This means that these players can play at the AHL or NHL level and move freely between the two without any risk of being claimed/stolen by another team.
The list includes Noah Hanifin, Ryan Murphy, Jaccob Slavin, Tyler Ganly and Brett Pesce from the rising young guns. It also includes holdovers like Keegan Lowe, Danny Biega and Trevor Carrick from the 2014-15 Checkers’ roster. Rasmus Rissanen is a slight exception in that he is on a 2-way contract but because of age and experience would need to clear waivers to move from the NHL back to the AHL (so he is the Zach Boychuk of the defensemen).
The key for the players above (except Rissanen exception) is flexibility. They can move freely between the AHL and NHL at any point during the season with salary to match the level they are playing at and no risk of being lost on waivers.
Category 2: Canadian junior players under 20 years old:
What does this mean? Because of the rules with younger Canadian junior players, these players are much more limited in how/when they can play at the NHL level. At a basic level, they are free to start the season in the NHL same as the AHL/NHL players in Category 1. But the key difference is that they CANNOT play in the AHL. If cut from the NHL roster, they must be returned to their Canadian junior team. And once they return to their Canadian junior team, they cannot be recalled to the NHL until their junior season is over, so their turn in the NHL is limited to whatever run they get to start the season. (Couple exceptions to note: There is a chance for an “emergency recall” in the event of a bunch of injuries at the NHL level (Murphy did this). Junior players can later rejoin NHL (or AHL teams) only AFTER their junior season ends (Fleury did this last season).) One other thing to note is the common 9-game trial. Canadian junior players are often kept 9 games into the NHL season for a short trial for two reasons. First, the trial being at the beginning of the season is out of necessity since you cannot recall them later. Second, the 9 game threshold is because playing 10 games at the NHL level burns a full year of the entry-level contract that can otherwise roll forward a year. (See part 1 of this for details.)
The key players impacted here are Haydn Fleury and Roland McKeown (though my hunch is that he is still a year or two away from competing for an NHL spot). It also applies to any other Canadian junior players from the 2014 and 2015 draft years.
So what this means is that the Canes have some limiting restrictions for what they do with Haydn Fleury this year:
- If the Hurricanes want him to spend time at the NHL level, it must be to start the season.
- If the Hurricanes want him to play at the NHL level, it must be continuous. There is no ability to send him to a lower level and recall him later.
- He cannot play in Charlotte/AHL. His options are the NHL or Canadian juniors for 2015-16.
- If he does start the season in the NHL, the big decision point for the Canes comes after game 9. At that point, the Canes need to decide if it is worth it to burn a full year of his entry-level contract in 2015-16 or if they prefer to send him back to juniors to keep all three years of his bargain-priced entry-level deal in place heading into 2016-1
When you net it out, I think the impacts on building the 2015-16 Carolina Hurricanes opening day roster are these:
–If Fleury looks good in training camp and even possibly NHL ready, he gets priority over everyone else because they can be recalled to the NHL level later as the season rolls forward and injuries create openings.
–If he looks capable in camp, I think Hanifin gets NHL ice time to start the season. The marketing value itself is huge and even if he does ultimately spend time in Charlotte (sort of like Faulk did), the NHL measuring stick might be a good starting point.
–For the other AHL/NHL defenseman, their tryouts in September could prove to be more for later in the season. Because of the flexibility with them, they can easily be waitlisted for first return to the NHL when injuries create openings.
I would also greatly appreciate page ‘likes’ on Facebook where we are also trying to build a following.