With the possibility of Sven Baertschi spending a season in the AHL in lieu of a locked-out NHL season, there’s been lots of questions popping up about his pro eligibility and the possibility of his entry level contract (ELC) "sliding" (meaning, the team doesn’t burn the first year of his 3 year contract if he plays in the minors). Both seem to be relatively simple questions, but the truth is only one of them is easily answered.
In the first – yes, Sven is eligible to play in the AHL this year. Any CHL player whose rights are owned by an NHL team is available to play in the American Hockey League if he turns 20 by December 31st of that season. Sven’s 20th birthday is October 5th, so he’s good to go.
In fact, Baertschi hasn’t reported to the Portland Winterhawks training camp, so the kid obviously intends to go pro this year, one way or the other.
The question of his ELC and whether it will slide this year is infinitely more complicated. The language surrounding the rules in the CBA is choked with legalese and reference to sub-sub-clauses, making it incredibly difficult to clarify the situation. Here’s a taste:
In the event that an 18 year old or 19 year old Player signs an SPC with a Club but does not play at least ten (10) NHL Games in the first season under that SPC, the term of his SPC and his number of years in the Entry Level System shall be extended for a period of one (1) year, except that this automatic extension will not apply to a Player who is 19 according to Section 9.2 by virtue of turning 20 between September 16 and December 31 in the year in which he first signs an SPC. Unless a Player and Club expressly agree to the contrary, in the event a Player’s SPC is extended an additional year in accordance with this subsection, all terms of the SPC, with the exception of Signing Bonuses, but including…
No wonder everyone hates lawyers.
Here’s the relevant bit for Baertschi:
In the event that a Player signs his first SPC at age 18 and has had his SPC extended pursuant to Subsection (i), and such Player does not play at least ten (10) NHL Games in the second season under that SPC, then the term of his SPC and his number of years in the Entry Level System shall be extended for one (1) additional year. Unless a Player and Club expressly agree to the contrary, in the event a Player’s SPC is extended an additional year in accordance with this Subsection, all terms of the SPC, with the exception of Signing Bonuses, but including Paragraph 1 Salary blah blah blah
So that seems to suggest Baertschi’s contract would slide given the reference to 10 NHL games and the fact he signed his ELC as an 18-year old in 2012, even though he still qualifies to play in the AHL as a 20-year old. The reference here is ONLY to 10 NHL games played, which certainly suggests Sven could see his ELC slide if he spends the season in the minors. According to some educated folks on twitter, Tomas Tatar has had his ELC slide twice for Detroit and he has a similar birthday to Sven’s.
In addition, in response to the previous lock-out the current CBA included a bit of an out-clause for players/teams with existing ELC’s:
For purposes of determining "slides" for the 2004-05 cancelled season, the following rules shall apply: (1) All Entry Level SPCs that "slid" in 2003-04, will be deemed to have "slid" for 2004-05; (2) All Entry Level SPCs that did not "slide" in 2003-04, will be deemed not to have "slid" in 2004-05; and (3) All Entry Level SPCs entered into prior to the expiration of the Expired CBA, with a term scheduled to commence with the 2004-05 season, will be deemed to have "slid" for 2004-05.
If the NHL adds a similar addendum to the upcoming CBA, then it’s possible Sven’s ELC will indeed slide, regardless if the current slide rules indeed apply to him (or if they are amended in some way in the next agreement).
Of course, all of this is assuming the year is completely wiped out by a lock-out and Baertschi spends the whole season on the farm. It’s much more likely the two groups figure things out at some point this summer and the kid plays 40+ games as a Flame anyways, rendering this all moot.
– Hilariously, the NHL released it’s national TV schedule today. No word on whether the txt words "lol"or "j/k" were included at the bottom of the press release.
– Scott Reynolds has been writing about "clear victories" recently, a stat that tracks games won by 2 or more goals (since one goal wins are muc more luck dependent). The Flames "clear victory" ratio last year was just .382, third worst in the Western Conference (ahead of only Minnesota and Columbus) and 5th worst in the entire NHL (only Tampa Bay and the Islanders were worse in the East).
This is, of course, another indictment of the team and an indication that they are in tough to compete this year. That said, it can be looked at from another angle – it’s remarkable that the Flames managed to compete for a playoff spot at all last season. They suffered through a host of injuries, their top-end is doddering, they frequently got outshot and their goalie, who was 35 at the time, kept them in a lot of games.
For a long time, the Flames have been derided by some as a club with leadership and heart problems – a collection of underachievers who apparently "dont want it enough" to win. However, one could argue that the Flames actually played over their heads to get to 9th in the West last season and that is evidence that the team actually does have heart/leaderhsip/determination/etc…