How does NHL free agency work? A complete guide to what you need to know before Wednesday


Follow our live coverage of 2022 NHL Free Agency dedications, news and analysis.

NHL free agency, the most exciting time of the league’s offseason, begins Wednesday at noon ET.

To bring hockey fans up to speed, we’ve put together this guide on what to expect, which teams and players to watch out for, and what could arrive in the days and weeks to come.

Without further ado, here is our introduction to the 2022 NHL Free Agency:

What is NHL Unrestricted Free Agency?

An NHL player becomes an unrestricted free agent when his contract expires and he has accumulated seven seasons or he is 27 or older. It can also happen to a younger player who hasn’t accumulated that much time in the league, but doesn’t get a qualifying offer, such as Dylan Strome with the Chicago Blackhawks.

These players are free to sign with the team of their choice, provided they receive a contract offer from the team. Once a player becomes an unrestricted free agent, he can sign for up to seven years. Before becoming a free agent, he can sign for eight years, but only with his current team. This window expires Tuesday, July 12 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

What is the NHL salary cap and its impact on agency?

The salary cap is a monetary threshold (in dollars allocated to their roster) that a team cannot cross. A player’s salary cap is the average annual dollars over the term of their contract. The upper salary cap limit for 2022-23 is US$82.5 million and the lower limit is US$61 million.

Where can I watch NHL Free Agency?

Athleticism has a live blog that will highlight all of our local and national coverage. In Canada, Sportsnet and TSN will both have live broadcasts. Sportsnet will begin Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. and TSN will begin at 11 a.m. In the US, here’s how you can watch by our Sean Shapiro:

How does this NHL Unrestricted Free Agency group compare to years past?

Just as the draft classes are judged by the biggest names at the top (think Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, etc.), so are the free agent classes – and 2022 could be one of the most plotters of all time, assuming Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary), Nazem Kadri (Colorado), John Klingberg (Dallas), Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh) and Claude Giroux (Florida) don’t agree to overtime with their current teams at the eleventh hour.

It’s not often that the NHL’s second-leading scorer (Gaudreau) can be had just for the price of his contract, making him the biggest name in the business, even as Calgary tries feverishly to sign him. before the deadline. But Malkin is a future Hall of Famer, Kadri had a stellar year on a championship team, Klingberg is a proven QB PP, and Giroux is one of the most versatile forwards in the game. Even with Filip Forsberg out of the game. market, this year’s class is loaded.

What are the biggest NHL names, teams and stories to watch in the coming days?

Let’s start with the goaltenders, as Darcy Kuemper and Jack Campbell top the list. Campbell was playing at the Vézina Trophy level in the first half before falling. Kuemper helped the Avalanche get past the playoffs and win the 2022 Stanley Cup.

A few contenders – Washington and Edmonton need a new No. 1. Could Kuemper land Washington and Campbell land Edmonton? Or could we possibly sign Ilya Samsonov, one of a dozen quality NHL players who didn’t receive qualifying offers on Monday and thus joined the already deep UFA class.

Gaudreau, as noted, is the bigger name, but whatever he decides will have a domino effect on whatever happens. The Flames have set aside between $9 million and $11 million to get Gaudreau under contract. If he runs away, they put themselves at the front of the teams looking for high-end talented attackers.

Even with Valeri Nichushkin out of the market, re-signed by Colorado, there is also an intriguing market for players in the middle of the roster, including Andrew Copp, who was an effective hire for Rangers, Vincent Trocheck (Carolina), Andre Burakovsky (Avalanche), useful defenders such as Ben Chiarot and Brett Kulak – and the three Strome brothers (Ryan, Dylan and Matthew), who could interest a low end like Arizona, which is always looking for bargains. This could be a unique three-for-one opportunity!

How quickly should we expect most NHL unrestricted free agents to be signed?

We can assume that 2022 follows a pattern closer to the pre-pandemic years, when the big names signed on Day 1 with a few outlier players having a bit longer impact. But make no mistake, this is all going to dry up pretty quickly.

In 2012, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter made offers for three days before signing with Minnesota. They’re the exception, not the rule – even if it seems like, say, Gaudreau is still unsure of his next move.

What is NHL Restricted Free Agency?

A restricted free agent is a player who does not meet the unrestricted free agent requirements and whose team makes him a qualifying offer. An example in this class would be Matthew Tkachuk.

How do offer sheets work in the NHL?

Offer slips are contracts that a team can send to eligible restricted free agents for the purpose of acquiring them from a team that owns their signing rights. If the skater chooses to sign an offer sheet, the team with the player’s rights can match it – binding them to that new contract – or they can let the player walk to sign that contract with the club that has him. originally proposed. In return, the team that loses their player on an offer sheet receives draft pick compensation based on that contract’s salary, as shown below.

Are there any NHL restricted free agent offer sheet scenarios that could spice up the coming weeks?

The odds of an offer sheet are slim in the NHL, but maybe there have been two in the last two summers (to Sebastian Aho of Montreal, who the Hurricanes tied, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi of the Carolina, which the Canadians made not match) is the start of a trend.

At the top end is Tkachuk, especially if Gaudreau extends to Calgary, which puts a strain on their ceiling situation. If the two Gaudreaus and Tkachuk receives raises to stay with the Flames, then Andrew Mangiapane becomes an intriguing option.

Jason Robertson of the Stars and Jesper Bratt of the Devils are both on the verge of earning big contracts, and their teams can probably match whatever is on offer. But if a team is trying to spice it up, they’re two top wingers to target. Moving down the roster, players like Kaapo Kakko of the Rangers and Nicolas Roy of the Golden Knights could be targeted, given their two teams’ financial position relative to the salary cap.

Jesse Puljujarvi looks set to leave Edmonton, so maybe the Oilers don’t corresponds to an agreement whose ceiling is not too high and which does not cost a team too much in compensation in the other direction. It may be cheaper than acquiring it through trade. Ultimately, teams could try to get Noah Dobson out of the Islanders on a long-term contract or Rasmus Sandin from the Maple Leafs.

If an NHL team wanted to use a bid sheet, how should it be structured?

The structure is something that depends on the player. Let’s say the target is Tkachuk; the offer sheet is expected to be a very expensive and lengthy deal that the Flames can’t afford to match. For a player of his caliber, a team may risk losing one of the first two pay tiers.

But not every offer sheet has to come with a massive offer. When it comes to a player like Kakko, compensation cost is a key factor.

A team would have to consider what they’d be willing to move to acquire him — that likely doesn’t include a first-round pick, which keeps them at the bottom two tiers. Depending on which team holds the signing rights, the term may not even be necessary; if another club sent Roy to a one-year deal worth around $4 million (costing a second round), Vegas probably still couldn’t match it given their cap constraints for next year and opponents should try to take advantage of it

Are there any trade candidates we should be watching over the next few days?

Chicago, after cutting the bait with nearly every player they could trade, is hitting the lower limit of the salary cap — so subtracting a $10.5 million contract or two via Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane wouldn’t be. not the easiest thing. That being said, the sellout isn’t just about Chicago; it’s raging, and it’s hard to imagine Kane or Toews wanting to have much to do with what comes next.

The goalie market in general—we’re short on free agents—seems to lend itself to trade. We might see someone like Jake Allen from Montreal popping up just as the carousel starts spinning.

On the skating side, Vancouver’s JT Miller and Montreal defenseman Jeff Petry are names to watch. Miller is coming off the best season of his career and he has a year to go before he hits the market. Petry had a tough time with Montreal last season, but he’s a good shooter with a history of success. Everyone is looking for guys like that.

– Eric Duhatschek, Shayna Goldman, Sean Gentille and Josh Cooper contributed to this piece.

(Photo by Johnny Gaudreau, left, with Matthew Tkachuk: Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

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