After a pretty wild draft weekend, National Hockey League teams get back to business on Monday. Qualifying offers for pending restricted free agents are due in the league office by 5pm ET (3pm MT), and teams begin to shuffle the deck in preparation for the frenzy of unrestricted free agency on July 1.
For what tomorrow means, why it’s significant, and why it may hold some intrigue for the Calgary Flames, here’s a quick and dirty primer.
WHAT’S AN RFA?
A restricted free agent (or “Group 2 Free Agent,” per the CBA) is a player with an expiring contract that does not yet qualify for unrestricted free agency, usually due to age and years of service – they’re not yet 27, and haven’t yet played 7 years.
WHAT’S A QUALIFYING OFFER?
A qualifying offer is functionally a token contract offer issued to maintain a Group 2 player’s rights. Sometimes the player accepts the qualifying offer straight-away, but most often it’s used as a starting point for negotiations on a longer contract.
And based on a player’s prior salary, a qualifying offer typically builds in a raise.
(A) if the Player’s prior year’s Paragraph 1 NHL Salary is less than or equal to $660,000 for that League Year, 110% of the prior year’s Paragraph 1 NHL Salary.
(B) if the Player’s prior year’s Paragraph 1 NHL Salary is greater than $660,000, but less than $1,000,000 for that League Year, 105% of his prior year’s Paragraph 1 NHL Salary, but in no event to exceed $1,000,000.
(C) if the Player’s prior year’s Paragraph 1 NHL Salary is equal to or greater than $1,000,000 for that League year, 100% of the prior year’s Paragraph 1 NHL Salary.
This is part of the risk for a team. If the escalated salary in a qualifying offer is too rich for your blood, you can get stuck with the player at that rate if they accept the qualifying offer.
HOW DOES ARBITRATION FIT IN?
Well, only players who are restricted free agents with a specific amount of age and experience have the right to elect salary arbitration. Again, this is a risk teams have to run when qualifying players. Paul Byron wasn’t qualified last season by the Flames because he would have arbitration rights.
WHO ARE CALGARY’S POTENTIAL RFAS?
In no particular order:
- D Dougie Hamilton
- F Lance Bouma
- F Paul Byron
- F Drew Shore
- F Josh Jooris
- F Micheal Ferland
- F David Wolf
- F Bill Arnold
- D John Ramage
- F Max Reinhart
- F Ben Hanowski
- F Kenny Agostino
- F Turner Elson
- F Bryce van Brabant
- D Sena Acolatse
For reference’s sake, Calgary already has 31 players under contract for 2015-16, so re-upping everyone would put them at 46 contracts before free agency begins.
DO ANY OF THESE GUYS HAVE ARBITRATION RIGHTS?
Some of them, yes. Per the CBA, players are eligible to elect salary arbitration if they meet the following qualifications, based on the year they signed and their years of pro experience.
Min. Level of Pro
“First SPC Signing Age” is a player’s age on September 15 of the year the contract was signed, regardless of when the deal actually began. The clock is ticking on a contract when a player plays 10+ pro games (10+ NHL games if a player is younger than 20) under a Standard Player Contract. So if a player signs an amateur deal, that doesn’t start the clock ticking towards having arbitration rights at that point.
Based on the CBA’s requirements, the following pending RFAs have arbitration rights: Josh Jooris, Drew Shore, David Wolf, Ben Hanowski, Lance Bouma, Sena Acolatse, John Ramage and Paul Byron.
ARE QUALIFYING OFFERS ONE-WAY OR TWO-WAY?
A Club’s Qualifying Offer must be a One-Way Qualifying Offer if the applicable Player has: (A) actually played (excluding games missed for injury, illness or disability) 180 or more NHL Games in the previous three (3) NHL Seasons, (B) played at least sixty (60) NHL Games in the previous NHL Season, and (C) not cleared Waivers in the period between the 12th day prior to the commencement of the previous Regular Season and the end of a Club’s previous Playing Season. For purposes hereof only, a goaltender is deemed to have played an NHL Game when he was dressed and on the bench as a backup. In all other cases, a Qualifying Offer may be a Two-Way Qualifying Offer.
Based on this, everyone will get a two-way qualifying offer, because nobody – not even Dougie Hamilton – meets these requirements.
WHO MIGHT NOT BE QUALIFIED?
I have a few candidates:
- F David Wolf: $911,000 qualifying offer, has arbitration rights, looked out of place due to his skating in his brief NHL appearances. Based on his age, is there much point at keeping him in the development pipeline?
- F Ben Hanowski: $894,000 qualifying offer, has arbitration rights, has been leap-frogged by a bunch of forwards in the system over the past few seasons. Then again, you need guys for Stockton, and he seems to be a good fit with the group they have. Just limited NHL upside at this point.
- D Sena Acolatse: $735,000 qualifying offer, has arbitration rights. The Flames brought in a ton of younger, other right-handed defenders, and it’s not clear at all where Acolatse fits in organizationally.
- F Bryce van Brabant: $971,000 qualifying offer. That’s an expensive price tag for a guy who was a depth body in Adirondack. If he ekes into the NHL, it’ll be in a depth role, and that NHL salary could be a deterrent to that.
- F Max Reinhart: $660,000 qualifying offer. Okay, outside of the fact that Reinhart has been leap-frogged by a few players this season, there’s really no reason not to qualify Reinhart. He’s not expensive, he’s a good AHL body at the least, and he may take a step forward at some point. But man, if they just decide they want to cut bait with a prior regime’s prospect, this may be the one they cut bait with.
Based on having 31 players already under contract and 15 pending RFAs, my complete guess would be that the Flames decline to qualify three players, maybe four.