Understanding the CBA: Entry Draft

Entry Draft (Article 8)

Normally, the rules regarding an entry draft are not argued at great length during labor negotiations.  The players’ union’s primary concern is active players and any restrictions placed on future players are additional job security for current players.  Donald Fehr is not your average union head though.  He is known for taking a big picture approach and looking at how growth for the players can be sustained over time.  As a result (and I realize this may be a broken record by now), every section of the CBA could be discussed in detail.  There are a couple of aspects of this section that stand out as potential talking points, and I’ll focus on those near the end of the post.

Some basics on the entry draft: There are seven rounds, with the number of choices per round corresponding to the number of teams in the NHL the following year.  So if there was going to be an expansion team in 2012-13, there would be 31 choices per round for the 2012 draft.  STOP CELEBRATING QUEBEC CITY.  THIS IS AN EXAMPLE, NOTHING IS HAPPENING.  Additionally, there can be up to 30 “compensatory draft selections” in each draft.  These picks are awarded should a team lose its draft rights to an unsigned player drafted in the first round, unless the team fails to tender a “Bona Fide Offer” to a player who is still eligible to be drafted or become a UFA (definition of bona fide offer below).  The compensation pick will be the same numerical choice the player was drafted at, only in the second round instead of the first.  For example, if a team fails to sign a player they drafted at #8 they would then receive a compensation pick at #8 in the second round.

The majority of this section is dedicating to making sure teams don’t lose their rights to players who choose to remain in junior or college for one or more seasons after they are drafted.  Obviously, every now and then, a player comes along who figures out how to become a free agent before signing a contract but the time commitment to pull that off is extreme.  The key date to remember for exclusive rights is June 1.  Teams have three or four years of exclusive rights for players drafted from junior or major junior teams, depending on the age of the player and whether a Bone Fide Offer was extended.  For players drafted from colleges, the window is either the fourth June 1 after being drafted or the August 15 after the graduation of his college class.

There are also several procedural clauses regarding eligibility of players for the NHL and how NHL teams should play nice with the CHL.  Any player that is 18 or 19 years old and has signed an SPC with a team must be offered to the major junior club from which he was drafted before he can be loaned to a minor league affiliate of the NHL team.  This makes it a little easier for teams to sign players to entry level contracts prior to those players being ready for the NHL.  Regarding NHL eligibility, as long as a player was claimed in the most recent entry draft, played hockey in North America and is 20 or older, played hockey outside North America and is 22 or older, or has been claimed in two prior entry drafts.  The final section allows the NHLPA access to any pre-draft combine and hold a private, closed-door meeting with the undrafted players.

Definition of a Bona Fide Offer:  An offer of an SPC which is for the period corresponding to a player’s age, based on Section 9.1(b), which is 3 years for players 18-21, 2 years for 22-23, and 1 year for 24.  Players 25 year and older are no longer in the Entry Level System, therefore have no limits to their compensation.  Additionally, the contract must start at the beginning of the next league year and offer at least the minimum salary, currently $525,000.  The offer must remain open for the player to accept for at least 30 days; however the offer may be conditional on acceptance within 30 days.  Finally, a Bona Fide Offer carries no rights to salary arbitration.

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