I’ve been a hockey fan for quite a while, but I’ve really only been a serious fan of an NHL team for slightly over a year. Last summer’s project was to learn the basics of advanced stats. This summer’s project? Contracts. There’s a lot to them and, in this salary cap era, they’re an integral part of any team’s existence. I’m also very nearly clueless about them once you get past a vague sense as to what makes a contract good.
It all started out, as anything hockey-related does for me, with the Habs. This season the Habs had a number of contracts to extend, of most interest to me in terms of learning about contracts were Christian Thomas, Jarred Tinordi, Michael Bournival, and Brian Flynn (all Restricted Free Agents). I was also most anxious to find out whether or not the Habs were going to re-sign promising Swedish defenceman Magnus Nygren.
- What is the difference between one and two-way contracts?
- How much salary can you “bury” in the AHL?
- Who has to be sent through waivers to play in the AHL?
- What the heck is going on with Magnus Nygren?
Andrew Berkshire, who until very recently, was the managing editor of one of the best Habs websites on the internet, was a huge help to me in my quest to find these answers. Through him, I was introduced to quite a number of people who provided extremely helpful summaries or websites on the information I wanted.
For anyone interested, these are the sites I found most helpful:
- A really comprehensive and easy to follow run down of contracts on reddit
- Winging it in Motown’s extensive reading list about the CBA in general
- This helpful crib sheet tweeted out by Hockey’s Cap.
What I Discovered
It turns out that the differences between two-way and one-way contracts are a lot simpler than I thought and have nothing to do with waiver eligibility. Two-way contracts simply mean that in the NHL the player will receive X amount, while in the AHL he’ll get Y (which is less). For example, Bournival will receive $600,000 a year if he plays in the NHL, while he’ll only be paid $125,000 in the AHL.
A one-way contract means that the player will receive X amount of money regardless of where he plays. (So if Beaulieu gets the yo-yo treatment this year, it won’t have anything to do with managing the cap, as I suspect it largely did last year, since regardless of where he plays he’ll get $1 million a year.)
It also turns out that the exact salary you can completely bury in the AHL is $950,000. It could prove awfully convenient that Flynn’s contract is exactly that much.
Waiver eligibility is a bit more complicated, and is decided by age signed/years from signing and games played at the NHL level (whichever is reached first), as is shown in this handy chart from the reddit feed on contracts.
Flynn (26, 3 years from signing), Bournival, Thomas, and Tinordi (all 23 and 4 years from signing) would have to be sent through waivers (and potentially lost for nothing) to play in the AHL. So chances are we won’t see as much yo-yoing going on with these guys as we have in the past.
As to Magnus Nygren, he got a qualifying offer, so his rights still belong to the Canadiens, but he’s already signed with Färjestad so I’m not 100% sure what that all means in the long run. (If anyone wants to clarify, please feel free to do so!)
So there you have it. All the things I have learned so far this summer about NHL contracts. I hope you found it interesting and/or informative. Also if I’ve made a mistake anywhere please do point it out to me. I’m still learning, and have a terrible head for numbers.