Hockey Central
Inside the NHL E-F
Entry Draft, Compensatory Draft Selection
Compensatory draft selections were introduced for the first time in the 1995 Entry Draft as a means of compensating the clubs that are either unable to sign first-round draft choices or lose a Group III free agent who re-signs with another club and the club that lose the Group III free agent fails to sign another Group III free agent of equal or greater value. The determination of the value of these players is based on salary, honors earned, and certain performance achievements. A club may not receive a Group III compensatory pick until at least the 11th pick in the second round of the next following Entry Draft.
In the event that a club loses its draft rights to an unsigned rookie drafted in the first round of the Entry Draft, who is again eligible for the Entry Draft or becomes an unrestricted free agent, a compensatory draft selection is automatically granted to the club. The compensatory draft selection is the same numerical choice in the second round in the Entry Draft immediately following the date the club loses the right to the player. For example, if a club cannot sign the third overall choice in the first round, it will receive the third choice in the second round of the next Entry Draft as compensation.
Entry Draft, Drawing
The NHL draft drawing is a weighted lottery system that has been used since 1995 to determine the order of selection in the first round only of the Entry Draft for the non-playoff clubs from the previous season as well as expansion clubs (were applicable).
The draft drawing was adopted by the NHL's Board of Governors on March 24, 1994 in order to protect the integrity of the Entry Draft and the regular season, while continuing to ensure that the teams with the poorest records get the best selections. The club winning the draft drawing may not move up more than four positions in the draft order, while no club can fall back more than one position as a result of the draft drawing.
Under the weighted lottery system, the non-playoff team with the fewest regular-season points has the greatest chance of winning the drawing. Fourteen balls, numbered one to 14, are placed in a lottery machine and four are randomly drawn. There are 1,001 possible combinations and each of the clubs involved is assigned a specified number of those combinations. For example, in the 1998 draft drawing, the club with the fewest regular-season points received 280 (28%) possible combinations. The next club along with the expansion Nashville club each had an 18.5% chance of winning the drawing; while clubs four through 11 followed with a 10.9%, 7.9%, 5.7%, 4.1%, 2.8%, 1.9%, 1.2% and 0.5%, respectively, chance of winning. The combinations are assigned to the clubs by a computer on a random basis.
In 1995, Los Angeles moved from seventh to third by winning the drawing; Ottawa and Boston both retained the number-one draft position by winning the drawing in 1996 and 1997, respectively. Because clubs may trade future draft picks, the result of the drawing may sometimes appear complicated: Tampa Bay received the right to select first overall in 1998 as a result of two trades earlier in the 1997-98 season. The numbers assigned to Florida were selected at the draft drawing, but the Panthers had traded their first-round pick to San Jose earlier in the 1997-98 season, while Tampa Bay later that season made a trade with San Jose which gave the Lightning the option to trade first-round picks with the Sharks.
Entry Draft, Length
The annual Entry Draft consists of nine rounds plus up to one round of compensatory draft selections.
Entry Draft, Eligibility
All players age 19 or older are eligible for claim in the Entry Draft except:
  • A player on the reserve list of a club, other than as a tryout;
  • A player who has been claimed in two prior entry drafts;
  • A player who previously played in the league and became a free agent pursuant to the Collective Bargaining Agreement;
  • A player age 21 or older who played hockey for at least one season in North America when he was age 18, 19 or 20.
In addition, any player who will be age 18 on or before September 15 in the year in which such Entry Draft is held, or reaches his 19th birthday between September 16 and December 31 inclusive, next following the Entry Draft, can become eligible by providing written notice to the league on an opt-in form.
Entry Draft, Order of Selection
The draft drawing determines the order of selection for the first round of the Entry Draft. For rounds two through nine, the order of selection is determined as follows: teams not advancing to the playoffs in reverse order based on regular-season points, followed by those teams advancing to the playoffs. It is possible for a team finishing with more points to draft earlier than a team with fewer points, if the first team missed the playoffs because of the ranking in its respective conference.
Entry Draft, Unsigned Draft Choices
A player selected in the draft is registered on the club's reserve list as an "unsigned draft choice" and the club maintains exclusive right of negotiation up to and including June 1 of the calendar year next following the date of his selection. If a "bona fide offer" is made, the period of exclusive right of negotiation is extended up to and including the second June 1. The offer may be conditioned upon acceptance by the player within 30 days.
An unsigned draft choice who enters into an agreement with any organization or person other than the NHL club or club or with a club in a league affiliated with the NHL, may be retained on the reserve list as a "defected player." The NHL club may retain such a player on its reserve list for as long as the agreement is in effect.
A player selected in the draft who is either a college student at the time or becomes a college student by the next June 1 following his draft, may be retained on the reserve list of a club so long as he remains a college student and thereafter for a period of 180 days plus the period between the end of said 180 days and the next June 1. A college player may also elect to be tendered a player contract at any time by filing the proper notice.
Entry Draft Players, Europeans
All European players must be drafted by an NHL club prior to competing in the NHL. This, however, was not always the case. Beginning in the early 1980's the league began to phase in the process of drafting European players. By late 1980's, the present-day rule was in place.
Players under contract to teams in International Ice Hockey Federation member countries may be signed by an NHL club in the year in which they are drafted through and including August 15. Once the signing deadline has passed, players under contract to IIHF teams or having signed a contract during the season with an IIHF team may not be signed by a National Hockey League club until the conclusion of the IIHF team's season.
Entry Level System,
Assigning of 18- and 19-Year-Olds
During the first two seasons following the drafting of an 18-year-old player, the club he signs a contract with must first offer him to the club from which he was claimed before it may assign him out of the NHL.
During the first season following the drafting of a 19-year-old player or a player who reaches age 19 between September 16 and December 31, inclusive, of the year of his draft, the club he signs a contract with must first offer him to the club from which he was claimed before it may assign him out of the NHL.
A player aged 18 or 19 who was selected in the first three rounds of the Entry Draft and who has not been signed by his NHL may not be retained by the club and must be returned to his junior team no later than the day prior to the opening of the NHL regular season.
A player aged 18 or 19 who was selected in the fourth or subsequent rounds who has not been signed by his NHL club may not be retained by the club and must be returned to his junior team no later than the fourth day prior to the opening of the NHL regular season.
An NHL club may not retain the services of a junior player signed after the start of the season, except under emergency conditions or after his junior club is no longer in competition.
With respects to forwards, an 18- or 19-year-old junior player may be recalled when the NHL club is in what is known as a third emergency (fewer than 16 skaters available to play). For defensemen, a junior player may be recalled when the NHL club is in a second emergency (fewer than 17 skaters available to play). With goaltenders, a junior may be recalled at any time when the NHL club is in an emergency.
An 18- or 19-year-old player may be assigned to the minor-league affiliate of his club when his junior team is no longer competing provided he has been listed on the club's minor-league eligibility list.
A junior player who signs and NHL contract and is subsequently returned to his junior team is entitled to receive a salary of $8,500.
Entry Level System, Compensation
The Collective Bargaining Agreement has, since 1995, including a salary cap on entry level players as follows:
Draft Year Entry Level Cap
1995 $850,000
1996 $875,000
1997 $925,000
1998 $975,000
1999 $1,025,000
2000 $1,075,000
2001 $1,130,000
2002 $1,185,000
2003 $1,240,000
2004 $1,295,000
Other provisions of the entry level compensation system include:
  • Maximum annual compensation includes salary and all bonuses other than certain specified legitimate performance bonuses. Bonuses, other than performance bonuses, are limited to 50% of player's annual compensation.
  • Amounts of permitted bonuses can be individually negotiated by players.
  • An entry level player has no rights to salary arbitration.
  • Mandatory two-way contracts with the maximum minor-league salary component at no more then 50% of the NHL minimum. NHL minimum is at $150,000 through the 2000-2001 season.
Entry Level, Players
Players 18 through 21 years of age signing their first NHL contract must sign a three-year contract. Players age 22 and 23 when signing their first NHL contract must sign a two-year contract, while those age 24 when signing their first NHL contract must sign a one-year contract. Players who are 25 or older when they sign their first contract are not subject to the entry level system.
In the event that a player signs his first contract at age 18 and has had his Player Contract extended pursuant to the above, and such player does not play at least 10 NHL games (regular season and/or playoffs) in the second season under that player's player contract, then the term of his player contract and his number of years in the entry level system shall be extended for one additional year.
Helmets - In 1979 all players entering the NHL were required to wear a helmet approved by the NHL's Rules Committee. Those in the league prior to 1979 were not. Beginning in 1992-93, all players had the option to play without a helmet, though only a handful did so. Craig MacTavish was the last player to go bare-headed.
Beginning in 1997, regulations were amended to require that certified helmets be worn by all players who either already wear a certified helmet or are 25 or younger.
Skates - In 1960, the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens began wearing an improved skate that featured an injury-reducing plastic guard fitted to the rear end of the blade. At the NHL's annual meeting in 1961, use of the CCM Pro-Guard Heel was made mandatory for all forwards and defensemen commencing with the 1961-62 season.
Sweaters - In August, 1970, the NHL's Board of Governors passed a resolution allowing the home team to put names on the back of player sweaters. Visiting teams could do the same only with the consent of the home club. Beginning with the 1977-78 season, it became mandatory for all players to have names on the backs of their sweaters.
Beginning in 1930 it became mandatory for each player to wear a number, measuring at least 10 inches in height, on the back of his sweater.
Sticks - The league first placed a limit of the maximum curvature of a stick blade in 1966-67 (½"). The maximum curvature was increased in 1968-69 to 1½" and reduced to 1" in 1969-70. The current maximum curvature (½") was adopted in 1970-71.
The approval for the use of an aluminum shaft stick by NHL players was first given in the 1981-82 season.
Goaltenders' facemask - Journeymen goaltender Andy Brown (who played for Detroit and Pittsburgh in the early 1970s) played his last NHL game on March 31, 1973 against the St. Louis Blues. Brown's appearance marked the last time an NHL goalie appeared in a game without the protection of a facemask.
The league began measuring goaltender pads and blockers on December 15, 1996.
During the 33-year period between 1967 and the year 2000, the NHL have expanded its membership from just six teams (in 1966-67) to 30 teams (in 2000-2001). The league's most active period of expansion occurred in 1967 when it grew from 6 to 12 teams and during the 1990's when it moved from a 21-club league to its membership total of 30 teams.
First Expansion—1967: California (Seals), Los Angeles (Kings), Minnesota (North Stars), Philadelphia (Flyers), Pittsburgh (Penguins) and St. Louis (Blues) were added to the league, each paying a membership cost of $2 million.
The 1967 expansion process formally began on March 11, 1965 when then NHL president Clarence Campbell stated that the league "proposes to expand its operations through the formation of a second six-team division." Just under 12 months later the process was completed, when on February 7 and 8, the Board of Governors considered 14 different expansion applications, including five groups from Los Angeles, two from Pittsburgh and one each from San Francisco, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Baltimore, Buffalo and Vancouver. St. Louis was not represented at the meeting as an ownership group had yet to emerge. Cleveland and Louisville, Kentucky had also expressed interest but were not represented.
The procedure for stocking the new teams saw each of the "Original Six" teams protect 11 skaters and one goaltender with the expansion teams during each drafting 18 skaters and two goaltenders. A "claim and fill" procedure was used during the draft that allowed a team that had had a player claimed by an expansion club to add one more player to its protected list.
Second Expansion—1970: Buffalo (Sabres) and Vancouver (Canucks) increased the league's membership from 12 to 14 teams. Each paid a membership cost of $6 million.
The origins of the 1970 expansion can be traced to the financial difficulties of the California Seals. In December 1967, only three months into their inaugural season, the NHL began to lend the California franchise money so that it would be able to complete its first season. The financial difficulties of the California franchise led to a request in February 1969 by a Vancouver group to buy and transfer the team to the Canadian west coast city. At the same meeting, a Buffalo group represented by Seymour and Northrup Knox and Robert Swados offered to purchase the franchise and continue to operate it in the Bay area in the event the Vancouver proposal was rejected. By June 1968 they would own a portion of the California club.
The league formally adopted its plan of second expansion in October 1969 with the objective to add two new teams for the 1970-71 season. The plan included a franchise for Vancouver "if an acceptable applicant applies prior to December 1, 1969". Informal applications had been received from Atlanta, Baltimore, Buffalo, Cleveland, Kansas City and Washington D.C. By December 1969, conditional franchises had been awarded to Buffalo and Vancouver.
To stock the two new teams, each of the 12 existing teams protected 15 skaters and two goaltenders, with Buffalo and Vancouver selecting 18 skaters and two goaltenders. The two clubs also received the first two draft positions in the 1970 Amateur Draft.
Third Expansion—1972: Atlanta (Flames) and New York (Islanders) increased the league from 14 to 16 teams. Each was added at a membership cost of $6 million. In addition, the Islanders had to make a $4 million indemnity payment to New York Rangers for moving into their home territory.
The 1972 expansion was actually part of a three-phase plan adopted by the Board of Governors on November 8, 1971 to counteract the plans of the newly formed World Hockey Association. In phase one, the league identified Atlanta and Long Island as desirable locations for franchises.
Phase two of the plan called for the admission of two new members for the 1974-75 season. Cities identified by the league as being potential members included Cleveland, Kansas City, Miami, Seattle, Portland (Oregon) and the Washington/Baltimore area. Phase three called for the NHL to expand to at least 24 teams during the 1970s. The league identified the need for additional teams in the Western part of the U.S. and in Canada.
To stock the Atlanta and New York Islanders franchises, each of the existing 14 teams protected 15 skaters and two goaltenders with the new clubs selecting 19 skaters and two goaltenders. The Islanders and Atlanta selected first and second, respectively, in the 1972 Amateur Draft.
Fourth Expansion—1974: Kansas City (Scouts) and Washington (Capitals) each were added for a franchise fee of $6 million, increasing the league's membership from 16 to 18 teams.
The Board of Governors reviewed 11 applications from eight different groups: Kansas City (four applicant groups) and one each from Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Indianapolis, Phoenix, San Diego and Washington.
The same draft procedures for both the Expansion and Amateur drafts in 1972 were used, with the exception that the two new teams drafted 22 skaters and two goaltenders each.
Following its fourth expansion, the league went about attempting to realize its stated goal of 24 teams by 1979. Prospective ownership groups from Denver, Seattle and San Diego were interviewed with the former two even being granted conditional franchises in June 1974. Both groups, however, failed to meet the conditions of their membership.
Fifth Expansion—1979: The NHL's fifth expansion saw membership grow to 21 teams with Edmonton (Oilers), Hartford (Whalers), Quebec (Nordiques) and Winnipeg (Jets) paying franchise fees of $6 million each.
The addition of the four clubs from the World Hockey Association came in June 1979 after more than a year of discussions in which other WHA teams (Houston and Cincinnati) also attempted to gain entry into the league.
To stock the four former WHA teams now joining the NHL, each of the existing 17 teams protected 15 skaters and two goaltenders. Each of the four expansion teams drafted 15 skaters and two goaltenders and were also permitted a maximum of four priority selections from their 1978-79 WHA playing rosters. In the Entry Draft (formerly known as the Amateur Draft), the four expansion teams selected in the 18th through 21st positions.
Sixth Expansion—1991, 1992, 1993: San Jose (Sharks) was added for the 1991-92 season, bringing NHL membership to 22 teams. Ottawa (Senators) and Tampa Bay (Lightning) were added for the 1992-93 season, bringing NHL membership to 24 teams. Anaheim (Mighty Ducks) and Florida (Panthers) were added for the 1993-94 season, bringing NHL membership to 26 teams. The membership cost of each of the franchise from the sixth expansion was $50 million. The process by which the above teams were added is described here:
1991: In December 1989, the NHL's Board of Governors agreed in principle to become a league of 28 teams by the end of the century. On May 9, 1990, the Board approved the awarding on a conditional expansion franchise to the then owners of the Minnesota North Stars, George and Gordon Gund. On the same day, the Board also approved the sale of the North Stars to a group consisting of Howard Baldwin and Morris Belzberg.
1992: The 1992 expansion process began in June 1990 when the league sent out expansion applications to 50 interested parties throughout North America. By August, a total of 11 applications representing 10 cities were received. The cities were Hamilton, Houston, Miami, Milwaukee, Ottawa, Phoenix, San Diego (two), St. Petersburg, Seattle and Tampa Bay. Houston, San Diego, Milwaukee, Seattle and Phoenix would all withdraw from the process prior to formal presentations to the Board on December 5, 1990.
1993: The league had already identified Anaheim and South Florida as attractive expansion locations when the Board formally announced the two newest additions on December 10, 1992.
Seventh Expansion—1998, 1999, 2000: The league began the process of growing to a 30-team league in 1998 with the addition of Nashville (Predators). Atlanta (Thrashers) became the 28th team in 1999-2000, and Columbus (Blue Jackets) and Minnesota (Wild) made their debut in the 2000-2001 season.
The league's seventh expansion process began on June 26, 1996 when it was announced that the NHL would begin accepting applications for expansion teams. By November 1, 1996, the league had received 11 applications—Atlanta, Columbus, Hamilton, Houston (three applications), Minneapolis-St. Paul, Nashville, Norfolk/Virginia Beach/Newport News (Hampton Roads), Oklahoma City and Releigh-Durham.
On January 13-14, expansion applicats' presentations were made to the league's Expansion Committee and on February 19, the NHL announced that the list of active expansion applicants had been reduced from 11 to six. The applicants that remained under consideration were: Atlanta, Columbus, Houston, Minneapolis-St.Paul, Nashville and Oklahoma City. On June 17, 1997 the Expansion Committee formally recommended the addition of Nashville, Atlanta, Columbus and Minneapolis-St. Paul and on June 25, 1997 the league's Board of Governors approved the four new teams at a membership cost of $80 million per franchise.
Free Agency
If a club makes a qualifying offer of contract to a player who does not have sufficient professional experience to qualify for Group II free agency, it maintains exclusive negotiation rights to him and he is not eligible for free agency.
Free Agency, Group II Player
Any player who meets the qualifications set forth in the following chart and is not a Group I player or a Group IV player, and is not an unrestricted free agent, becomes a Group II restricted free agent upon the expiration of his contract.
First Contract Eligible for Group II Free Agency
Signing Age:
18-21 plus three years professional experience
22-23 plus two years professional experience
24+ plus one years professional experience
Clubs must make qualifying offers to Group II free agents to maintain its rights of first refusal and/or draft choice compensation. A club's qualifying offer must be 110% of the prior year's NHL salary to players making the NHL average salary of less. For players earning more than the NHL average salary, the qualifying offer must be 100% of the prior year's NHL salary. The player's old club shall have the right to match any offer and retain the services of the player or, if it elects not to match, to receive draft compensation. A qualifying offer for players aged 26 or older must be at least $474,440 for the old club to retain the rights to match, the amount is indexed annually beginning with the 1997-98 league year based on increases in the NHL average salary.
Free Agency, Group II Compensation
The level of draft-pick compensation that a club receives for losing a Group II free agent is determined by the salary offer the player receives from his new club. The following chart depicts the compensation that the player's old club is entitled to.
Salary Offer Draft Choice Compensation
$474,440 or below None
$474,441 to 652,355 One 3rd round choice
$652,356 to 770,965 One 2nd round choice
$770,966 to 948,880 One 1st round choice
$948,881 to 1,186,100 One 1st round and one 3rd round choice
$1,186,101 to 1,423,320 One 1st round and one 2nd round choice
$1,423,321 to 1,660,540 Two 1st round choices
$1,660,541 to 2,016,370 Two 1st round and one 2nd round choice
Over $2,016,370 Three 1st round choices
Each additional million Additional 1st round choice up to maximum of five
Clubs owing one pick must have it available in the next draft. Clubs owing two picks in the same round must have them available within the next three entry drafts. Clubs owing three draft picks in the same round must have them available in the next four drafts and so forth. Clubs owing two draft picks in different rounds must have them available in the next draft. Also, clubs must use their own picks and not picks acquired from other clubs.
Free Agency, Group II Offer and
First Refusal Procedure
Once a Group II player signs an offer sheet from a new club, his old club, if applicable, has seven days to match that offer and retain the services of the player.
Free Agency, Group II Player
Any player who is 31 years of age or older as of June 30 at the end of the 1997-98, 1998-99, 1999-2000, 2000-01, 2001-02, 2002-03 or 2003-04 season and has four accrued seasons shall, if his contract expires, become an unrestricted free agent. Such player shall be completely free to negotiate and sign a contract with any club without restriction.
Free Agency, Group IV Player
A Group IV player is defined as a player who has never signed an NHL contract and who becomes a free agent after having met the conditions for a defected player. The NHL club owning his rights must make him a qualifying offer and receives only the right to match any offer sheet signed by the player with another NHL club.
Free Agency, Group V Player
A Group V player is defined as a player who has completed 10 or more professional seasons (minor league or NHL, excluding junior) and who did not earn in the final year of his contract more than that year's average league salary. This player may elect, once in his career, to negotiate and sign a contract with any club without restriction.
Free Agency, Group VI Player
A Group VI player is defined as a player age 25 or older who has completed three or more professional seasons, whose contract has expired and, in the case of a skater, has played less than 80 NHL games (regular season and/or playoffs), or in the case of a goaltender, less than 28 NHL games. A Group VI player is an unrestricted free agent at the end of his contract.
Free Agent, List
On July 1 of each year a free agent list is issued setting forth the names of those players who are free agents as of that date.