The NHL is a business. And sometimes the business side of hockey is cruel. But there is also something about the business side, particularly trades and free agency, that fans find interesting. Free agency can either do good for a team, or it can break a team.
With a salary cap that limits spending, the opening of the NHL’s free agency period on July 1, is one of the key dates on the NHL calendar. There are two types of free agents in the NHL: restricted and unrestricted. Restricted free agents are players who have not met the requirements for a UFA. Unrestricted free agents who have at least seven years of service or are 27-years old or older and any player 22-years old or older who have not been drafted are considered UFAs. They are free to sign with any team.
Both the NHL and Major League Baseball have free agency qualifying offers. However they are very different: in MLB, a qualifying offer is extended to any pending free agent that has spent the entire season with the team, which means trade acquisitions that are pending free agent acquired in-season would not be eligible for a qualifying offer. In the NHL, a qualifying offer is for restricted free agents only; an offer is extended to a RFA to retain exclusive negotiating rights with that player. Which begs the question: should the NHL adopt a similar qualifying offer for UFAs? Let’s take a look at what a MLB-style qualifying offer would mean in the NHL:
– signing any UFA extended a qualifying offer would require the player’s new team to forfeit their first-round draft pick as compensation
– if the new team’s pick is in the Top 10 picks, that pick is protected and the next-highest pick would be the compensation
– the amount of the QO would be the average salary of the Top 125 salaries in the league, though the NHL would likely change that number to comply with the salary cap
We’ll use former Capital Mike Green as the example: say the Capitals extended Green a qualifying offer and he rejected it. He signed with the Detroit Red Wings, whose first-round pick was No. 19. The Red Wings would be required to give the Capitals that pick as compensation. To make it fairer to smaller market teams, the NHL could make compensation based on cap hits. For instance, players with cap hits of $5 million or more would require a first-round pick, a cap hit of $3-4.9 million requires a second-round pick, and any player with a cap hit of $1-2.9 million requires a third-round pick. Anything less than $1 million would not warrant compensation.
The NHL would have to make the qualifying offer compliant with the salary cap, which is currently $71,400,000 and the salary floor which is $52,800,000, and fair for all teams. For instance, let’s say we average the Top 10 salaries in the league, which would be $9.1 million, which is a high number. Since the offer is for one year, it may have to be adjusted so that older players (32+) that teams want to extend an offer to and are accepted, aren’t being paid massive amounts of undeserved money. This could be where that specific player’s previous salary is used to somehow determine their new cap hit.
There are a lot of things that are good about this idea, but there are also some possible roadblocks. What do you think Caps fans? Should the NHL implement a qualifying offer for unrestricted free agents, or should it stay as is?
**Salary cap and floor according to General Fanager**
By Michael Fleetwood