Free Agent (NHL)

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A free agent in the North American Ice Hockey League National Hockey League (NHL) is a player who is not under contract with any team . A distinction is also made between an unrestricted and a restricted free agent. Unrestricted free agents can switch without restrictions, which is not the case with restricted free agents. These two categories are again divided into subgroups.

Free Agents

Group 1 (Unrestricted Free Agent)

Players in this group can negotiate without restrictions and choose a team of their choice.

Group 2 (Restricted Free Agents)

This group includes players whose contracts are about to expire, but who have already received an offer from their old team. If the player has earned up to $ 600,000 so far, he must receive an offer of 110 percent of the previous salary. If the player's salary was up to a million US dollars, the offer must be 105 percent of the previous salary. For all players who have earned more than a million US dollars, the offer must be 100 percent.

Other teams can still make offers to a restricted free agent and the player can sign a preliminary contract, a so-called offer sheet , with another team . If the team that has the rights to the player still wants to keep him, they have to catch up with the offer of the competition and renew the player's contract on the same terms as the offer sheet had offered. However, if the team decides against drawing level with the offer of another team, they will receive compensation in the form of draft picks based on the player's new average salary.

Annual salary Compensation (as of July 2019)
to $ 1,395,053 no
$ 1,395,054 to $ 2,113,716 A third round draft pick
$ 2,113,717 to $ 4,227,437 A second round draft pick
$ 4,227,438 to $ 6,341,152 A first-round and a third-round draft pick
$ 6,341,153 to $ 8,454,871 A first round, a second round and a third round draft pick
$ 8,454,872 to $ 10,568,589 Two first round, one second round and one third round draft pick
More than $ 10,568,590 Four first-round draft picks


If a team has made a qualification offer to one of its players who will become a restricted free agent, the team will continue to hold the rights to the player, but a new contract must be negotiated. This contract must be concluded by December 1st of the respective year, otherwise the player can no longer be used during the season. Can both parties do not agree on a new contract, they have the potential Arbitration ( German: mediation) to apply to the NHL. This request must be made by the beginning of July and a decision will be made before an arbitration tribunal in July and September. The duration of the contract determined by the arbitrator may not exceed two years. However, both parties still have the option to negotiate a contract until the arbitration date.

Both parties can express their salary expectations before the arbitration tribunal and substantiate them with arguments. The following criteria are included in the decision:

  • The total performance of the player including the statistics from previous years
  • The previous length of membership in the team and in the league
  • The player's contribution to the team's success or failure
  • The player's leadership skills and public appearance
  • The performance and salary of players that can be used as a comparison

The comparison with players who have signed a contract as an unrestricted free agent as well as the financial situation of the team are not taken into account in this process.

The arbitration tribunal's decision must be made no later than 48 hours after the hearing. The team then has the option of rejecting the arbitrator's decision, whereby the player becomes an unrestricted free agent and can move freely.

Players cannot apply for arbitration until they have played in the NHL for at least four years. However, this waiting time will be shortened if a player has only made their debut at the age of 20 or older. There are no restrictions on how many times a player applies for arbitration, but they can only be sued for an arbitration settlement once in their career.

Group 3 (Unrestricted Free Agent)

The players in this group can negotiate with another team without restriction and decide on a new team. Whether a player belongs to the group depends on a specified minimum age and / or on a specified number of years in the NHL. The following players belong to this group in the following seasons:

season Requirement A Condition B
2007/08 28 years and 4 seasons 7 seasons
from 2008/09 27 years and 4 seasons 7 seasons

Group 4 (Restricted Free Agent)

Players who have never signed a contract with an NHL team.

Group 5 (Unrestricted Free Agent)

This group includes players who have played professional ice hockey for at least ten years in the NHL or a sub-league and earned less than the average NHL salary for the previous season. These players have the right to get into group 5 once in their career and to negotiate with every team in the league and switch without restrictions. If a player does not claim to be in group 5, the rules of group 2 apply to him.

Group 6 (Unrestricted Free Agent)

This group includes players who are at least 25 years old and have played a maximum of 80 games (field players) or 28 games (goalkeepers) in three or more seasons. The players are free to negotiate and switch.

Unrestricted free agent

This group includes the players who have not received an appropriate offer in accordance with the requirements from group 2 and can therefore switch freely.

See also

Individual evidence

  1., How NHL offer sheets work and which players could sign one