(Editor’s note- Dominic Tiano gets full credit for writing this in-depth piece on key dates linked to the 2017 NHL offseason. It’s a reminder of how plugged in he is to the business and operations side of hockey. If you ever have a question about the CBA or free agency rules or pretty much anything that deals with the nuts and bolts of the NHL’s infrastructure, then he’s the guy to follow and engage with on Twitter. @dominictiano – KL)
Of course, some of you may think it’s early, but decision time is fast approaching. In less than two weeks, Don Sweeney, Scott Bradley and company will be busy at the week-long NHL Draft Combine in Buffalo N.Y. where they make key decisions on the future of your Boston Bruins. Plenty of time will be spent watching players do some off-ice testing and they will also be conducting plenty of player interviews. It’s when a scout sees his year long work (sometimes longer) come to the forefront.
It’s also less than two weeks away that NHL teams will have to make decisions on prior year’s draft picks if they have not already signed an NHL contract. You will see the term bona fide offer used a lot, so let me explain a bona fide offer if I may.
Simply put, a bona fide offer is a contract offered usually to mid-to-late round draft picks selected from North American Junior Leagues so that NHL teams can retain the rights to those players for two years as opposed to one. The offer is usually for league minimum, is a one-way deal that does not include a signing bonus, performance bonuses, an AHL salary and for Canadian Major Junior players, no CHL salary. The chances of such a player jumping directly to the NHL are almost non-existent, therefore, there is no incentive for the player to sign this contract and is basically, for the lack of a better term – housekeeping. To my recollection, the last player to not receive a bona fide offer was Eric Locke. The Buffalo Sabres selected him 189th overall in 2013 and he did not receive a bona fide offer by June 1, 2014, effectively becoming an unrestricted free agent. He is now playing Canadian University hockey. But it is rare for NHL teams to release this information.
Also of note when it comes to Junior players, a player who is born between January 1 and September 15 is eligible for three NHL drafts while a player born between September 16 and December 30 is eligible for two drafts.
Here’s a look at key dates this offseason:
May 1 – European Free Agents
Of course, at the time we are writing this, May 1 is already upon us. It’s the day most European League contracts expire, including those in the Kontinental Hockey League and according to the NHL’s agreement with the IIHF and the KHL, teams can sign free agents from Europe – if their rights aren’t held by another NHL squad. It was under this scenario which the Las Vegas Golden Knights signed Vadim Shipachyov on May 4.
May 28 – June 3: NHL Draft Combine
The top 100 players eligible for the NHL draft are put through a series of off-ice testing. Players also meet one-on-one with potentially interested teams. Assistant General Manager Scott Bradley will run the draft for the Bruins.
June 1 – Deadline for bona-fide offers to prior year’s draft picks
Contrary to popular belief, all Junior players drafted from a North American junior league must be tendered a bona offer by June 1 immediately following their draft or that player either re-enters the draft or becomes an unrestricted free agent (depending on age). If a bona fide offer is made, the team holds the player’s rights until the second June 1 following his draft, at which time the team must sign the player or he re-enters the draft or becomes an unrestricted free agent (depending on age). Players drafted from Europe or the NCAA (or become full time students by June 1 following his draft) do not have to have a qualifying offer made and the team holds their rights until the 4th June 1 following his draft for Europeans or August 15 for College Students (explained below).
June 1 – Deadline for signing unsigned draft picks (5:00 EDT)
This applies to players drafted from Junior leagues in North America – the first June 1st following their draft for players who did not receive a bona fide offer, the second June 1st for players who have received a bona fide offer, or the 4th June 1st for players drafted from Europe. If a player is not signed by 5:00 pm EDT, he re-enters the draft (depending on age) or becomes an unrestricted free agent.
The last Bruin to not receive an offer prior to this deadline was Mitchell Dempsey, selected in the 7th round, 210 overall at the 2013 Entry Draft.
June 14 – Last possible date for Stanley Cup Final
It goes on far too long. But that’s a debate for another day.
June 15 – (or 48 hours after Cup is awarded) First buy-out period begins.
The buyout period begins 48 hours after the Stanley Cup is awarded or June 15, whichever comes first. Teams can buyout any contract regardless of term or dollar value (which differs from the second buyout window – explained later).
June 15 – First deadline for club elected salary arbitration.
This is also ends the first window for teams to select salary arbitration for restricted free agents. Player-elected arbitration comes at a later date.
Bruins eligible for salary arbitration are: Ryan Spooner, Noel Acciari, Tim Schaller, Joe Morrow, Zane McIntyre, Austin Czarnik and Colton Hargrove.
June 18 – Team’s Expansion Draft lists released
The NHL will reveal the pool of players each team has made available for the Las Vegas Golden Knights to select in the expansion draft. Teams must make available one goaltender who is under contract (Anton Khudobin) OR one who is an RFA (Malcolm Subban) in which case, that goaltender must receive his qualifying offer. They must also make available one defenseman and two forwards who are under contract for the 2017-2018 season and played in 40 games in the previous season or 70 in the previous two seasons.
Players with a no-movement-clause must be protected. The Bruins’ list includes Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and David Backes. Teams can protect a total of 1 goaltender, 3 defensemen and 7 forwards OR 1 goaltender and 8 skaters.
June 21 – Las Vegas Golden Knights Expansion Draft Picks revealed/NHL Awards Banquet.
The Golden Knights must select one player from the unprotected list of each team. They must draft at minimum 3 goaltenders, 9 defencemen and 14 forwards. 20 of the picks must be under contract for the 2017-2018 season. The post expansion cap value of their picks must have an aggregate of 60% to 100% of this season’s cap or $43.8 million to $73 million. In other words, they do not have to hit the cap floor of $54 million through the expansion draft.
June 23, 24 – Entry Draft from United Center in Chicago
The Bruins have 6 picks in the 7 rounds of this year’s draft: Round 1 (18th overall); Round 2 (53rd overall) Acquired from Edmonton as compensation for Peter Chiarelli; Round 4 (111th overall); Round 6 (173rd overall) Round 7 (195th overall) Acquired from Florida Panthers for the 2016 7th round pick; and Round 7 (204th overall).
Round 2, their pick (49th overall) was traded to the New Jersey Devils for Lee Stempniak; Round 3, their pick (80th overall) was traded to Philadelphia Flyers for Zach Rinaldo. Round, 5 their pick (142nd overall) was traded to Carolina Hurricanes for John-Michael Liles.
June 25 – Unrestricted Free Agents can begin talking to other teams until June 30.
Unrestricted free agents may contact the other 30 teams to gauge interest in their services. Players and teams may negotiate a contract but can not sign the deal until free agency begins on July 1. It was previously thought teams and players could not talk contract, but that was clarified by the league.
June 25 – Deadline for qualifying offers to restricted free agents (5:00 pm EDT)
Teams must make a qualifying offer to their restricted free agents or they will become unrestricted free agents as of July 1. Qualifying offers are based on player’s 2016-2017 base salary as follows: up to $660,000, qualifying offer is 110%; $600,001 to $999,999, qualifying offer is 105%. $1 Million or more, qualifying offer is 100%. If the player played in 180 games over the previous 3 season, and 60 games in the previous season, and did not clear waivers in the previous season, the qualifying offer must be a one-way offer. For players that do not meet all 3 criteria, the qualifying offer can be for a two-way contract. If the player refuses the qualifying offer, the team retains his rights.
By way of example: Ryan Spooner has played in 191 games over the last 3 seasons, 82 games in the previous season, and did not clear waivers, so his qualifying offer must be a one-way deal. In contrast, because Tim Schaller played in 100 games over the previous 3 seasons, his qualifying offer can be a two-way deal (playoff games are included).
June 26 – Restricted Free Agents may have discussion with teams (including their own)
Restricted free agents are free to talk to all 31 teams but may not sign a contract or an offer sheet until July 1
June 30 – Setting of upper and lower limit
The salary cap ceiling and floor are set.
June 30 – First buyout period ends.
This is the deadline for teams wishing to buyout a player. There is a second buyout window for teams with player-elected salary arbitration cases (see below).
July 1 – Free Agency begins (also known as Canada Day)
Unrestricted free agents are free to sign wherever they wish. Restricted free agents can sign offer sheets. Often referred to as free agent frenzy.
July 5 – Deadline for filing player-elected salary arbitration
Players wishing to go to salary arbitration must file by 5:00 pm EDT. For the Bruins, or any other team to have the second buy out window open, a player must choose to go to salary arbitration.
July 6 – Deadline for filing for team-elected salary arbitration
This is the second window deadline for teams to file for salary arbitration on their restricted free agents. Deadline is 5:00 pm EDT.
July 15 – Qualifying offers expire.
If a player has not signed his qualifying offer by 5:00 pm EDT, the qualifying offer automatically expires. The team will still retain his rights.
July 20 – Aug 4 – Arbitration hearings
This is the period to present salary arbitration cases before an arbitrator. Teams and the player may come to an agreement at any time before the arbitrator’s decision has been rendered.
Aug 6 – Deadline for arbitration decisions
This is the last possible day for the arbitrator to render his/her decision. All arbitrator decisions must be made within 48 hours of the hearing.
July 20 – Aug 6 – Walk-away rights from salary arbitration awards.
A team has 48 hours after its last arbitration award to exercise it’s walk-away rights. In doing so, the player would become an unrestricted free agent.
July 20 – Aug 6 – Second buyout window.
This second buyout window applies only to teams that have player-elected salary arbitration cases. The period begins 3 days after the arbitrator has issued his/her award or the two sides have reached an agreement and the team has 48 hours to use the second buyout window. There is a minimum salary that is eligible to be bought out. When the CBA was signed, it was at $2.75 million AAV, but it goes up every season with the average league salary. Teams are only allowed to use this buyout option 3 times over the life of the CBA.
Aug 15 – Deadline for signing college draft picks
This one can be a little confusing. This is the deadline for signing College Players who have completed their college careers.
Here is where it gets confusing. If a player decides to forego their remaining college days, then the rules change. I’ll use Cameron Hughes and Wiley Sherman as examples. Hughes was drafted out of the University of Wisconsin and is entering his fourth year of College; thus, the Bruins hold his rights until August 15, 2018. Sherman was drafted out of Hotchkiss High School. He didn’t become a college student until the second June following his draft, but because the Bruins made a bona fide offer the year he was drafted, they held onto his rights. Sherman is also entering his fourth year of college, so the Bruins hold onto his rights until August 15, 2018.
However, if one or both decide not to return to college, or leave college on or before December 31, 2017, then the Bruins will only hold their rights until the latter of June 1, 2018 or 30 days after NHL Central Registry receives notification that they are no longer college students. If they leave college before they graduate and after January 1, 2018, then the Bruins hold onto their rights until August 15, 2018.
Confusing? Yes, but I hope that clears it up. In the end, there will be eyes on college students to see what happens August 15, 2017.