Examining Some Major NHL CBA Changes

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While the focus for many hockey fans today will be on the return to play protocols and when their individual team will resume the chase for the Stanley Cup, the vote between the NHL and NHLPA also officially introduced a CBA extension. With that extension, that will run through September 15, 2026 (but also has some built-in extenders), the two sides also agreed to several changes to contract structure rules and enforcement. We’ll go over some of the most striking changes here:

  • NMC/NTC: No-move or no-trade clauses that have been included in contracts but have not yet kicked in will remain even if a player is traded. In 2016, the Montreal Canadiens traded P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators just a few days before his no-trade clause was set to begin. Under the old rules, the Predators had the choice of whether to honor that clause or not. They decided not to (Predators GM David Poile is notorious for not including no-trade clauses in most of his own deals) and subsequently traded Subban to the New Jersey Devils a few years later.
  • UFA Interview Period: The interview period that immediately precedes the league’s free agency period has been eliminated. Previously, the league allowed teams to speak with pending free agents a few days before their contracts actually expired, in order to allow players and front offices a little more time to negotiate. That period has been eliminated, meaning there will be a rush to get in contact with players the moment free agency begins.
  • Recapture Penalties: Cap recapture penalties cannot exceed in any one year the contract’s average annual value. Under the old rule, the Predators were in danger of facing a ~$24.6MM cap penalty if Shea Weber decided to retire before the 2025-26 season. That penalty, should it happen, would now be spread over several years and not be able to exceed the $7.86MM cap hit Weber carries. So far, only the Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers have been dinged with recapture penalties, both stemming from Roberto Luongo’s early retirement.
  • Trade Conditions: A team can no longer include a condition in a trade that would send further compensation if a player is re-signed. This is only applicable if the traded player has an NHL contract at the time of the trade. Before this rule, teams were almost always including an additional condition in trades that would net them an extra piece of compensation if the acquiring team re-signed the player. A notable recent example was when the San Jose Sharks re-signed Evander Kane after acquiring him from the Buffalo Sabres. The decision to re-sign Kane came with an increased cost to the Sharks, as a conditional fourth-round selection was upgraded to a first-round pick.
  • Eight-Year Extensions: Teams no longer need to wait until after the following trade deadline to sign a newly acquired player to an eight-year extension. In the case of Erik Karlsson, the Sharks were not permitted to sign him for an eighth year until the trade deadline had passed after acquiring him from the Ottawa Senators.
  • Qualifying OffersA qualifying offer for a restricted free agent is no longer automatically equal to the final year’s salary.  Instead, it will be the lower of the salary in the final year or 120% of the AAV of the contract. Timo Meier notably used the old rule to his advantage when negotiating his new contract, back-loading the deal to force a $10MM qualifying offer when it expires. This change only applies to contracts signed from here on out, meaning Meier (and others like Brock Boeser) will still receive qualifying offers equal to their final contracted year.
  • Olympic Participation: Both sides have committed to participating in both the 2022 and 2026 Olympic Games. Though this isn’t contractual, it was a big point of emphasis for the players in CBA negotiations.
  • RFA and Draft Pick Contracts: Teams can start signing restricted free agents and draft picks to contracts starting in 2020-21 on Monday. They can also extend players who have contracts expiring after the 2020-21 season. Players like Kirill KaprizovIlya Sorokin and Alexander Romanov will have a three-day window to sign for 2019-20 and burn a year off their entry-level contracts, but will not be allowed to play in the playoffs.