Last time, we looked at Article 1 of the CBA, which is nothing but definitions. In this edition of CBA School, we get into the meat. You can skip over Articles 2 through 7 because they’re largely boilerplate procedural legalese.

Let’s dive into Article 8: Entry Draft.

Basic Stuff

Sections 8.1 and 8.2 define the basic parameters of the draft. It’s held in June, seven rounds long, and has as many picks per round as there are teams in the league. (Obviously the June timing is going to change this year, and can be done so via mutual agreement on an interim basis.)

Compensatory Draft Choices

The only exception to the “as many picks per round as teams in the league” rule is under 8.3(b), regulating compensatory draft picks. Under Section 8.3(b), if a first round pick either doesn’t sign after two seasons (and either re-enters the draft or becomes a free agent, depending on their age and circumstances) or dies before signing, the team that loses them will get a compensatory pick. The “died” provision was added in the 2013 CBA revisions after Alexei Cherepanov passed away during a KHL game in 2008. (It was “read in” to the existing rules after his death because it was felt it fit within the spirit of the rule.)

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Under this rule, the team losing the first round selected player receives a pick equal to where they were taken, only a round later. So if the sixth overall pick doesn’t sign after two seasons, the team will receive the sixth pick in the second round that year.

Eligibility for Claim

Section 8.4 defines who can be drafted. It’s basically everyone over the age of 18, except with five specific exceptions defined in five sub-sections:

  • 8.4(a) – players on a reserve list (e.g., players that have already been drafted or signed by NHL clubs)
  • 8.4(b) – players who have been drafted twice already
  • 8.4(c) – players who have previously played in the league and become free agents (“played in the league” is what the section says, but it’s anybody who has been signed to a standard player contract at any point)
  • 8.4(d) – players 21 or older who have played a year in North America at age 18, 19 or 20 and haven’t been drafted yet (e.g., North American undrafted free agents)
  • 8.4(e) – players 22 or older who haven’t been drafted (e.g., European undrafted free agents)

Most of these categories make sense, and it’s just the age aspect regarding Europeans that is a bit weird.

Definition of age

Speaking of age, one of the weirdest parts of the CBA is that age is defined differently depending on what section of the CBA you’re readng. Section 8.10 defines it as far as the draft is concerned:

As used in this Article, “age 18” means a Player reaching his eighteenth birthday between January 1 next preceding the Entry Draft and September 15 next following the Entry Draft, both dates included; “age 19” means a Player reaching his nineteenth birthday by no later than September 15 in the calendar year of the Entry Draft; “age 20” means a Player reaching his twentieth birthday by no later than December 31 in the calendar year of the Entry Draft; “age 21” means a Player reaching his twenty-first birthday by December 31 in the calendar year of the Entry Draft; and “age 22” means a Player reaching his twenty-second birthday by December 31 in the calendar year of the Entry Draft.

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For the sake of the 2020 NHL Draft, here’s the gist of it:

  • “Age 18” means players born no later than September 15, 2002 (e.g., born between September 16, 2001 and September 15, 2002)
  • “Age 19” means players born no later than September 15, 2001 (e.g., born in 2001, but not late than September 15)
  • “Age 20” means players born no later than December 31, 2000 (e.g., born in 2000)
  • “Age 21” means players born no later than December 31, 1999 (e.g., born in 1999)
  • “Age 22” means players born no later than December 31, 1998

Nobody age 22+ is draft eligible. Only Europeans are eligible at age 21. Everybody’s eligible at 18, 19 or 20 as long as they’re not previously drafted.

Drafted player rights

Once a player is drafted, how long does the NHL team have to sign him?

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Generally (Section 8.6(a)), they have until the second June 1 after the draft, as long as they offer them a contract before the first June 1 after the draft. But there are two broad exceptions to this

The college player exception (section 8.6(c)) says that if a player drafted at 18 or 19 becomes a college player during the first or second year after being drafted, the NHL team retains their rights until the August 15 following their graduation. (They don’t need to offer them a contract to keep these rights.) If they leave college before graduation, the team retains their rights until the later of the fourth June 1 after their drafting or 30 days after the league is told they’re leaving college.

The European player exception (section 8.6(d)) says if a player is drafted at age 18 or 19 from a team outside North America, teams retain their rights until the fourth June 1 after their selection. If they’re drafted at age 20 or 21, they only get their rights until the second June 1 after selection. As with college players, they don’t need to offer them a contract to maintain these rights.

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There are a bunch of smaller sub-clauses and provisions for the more rare situations, but these are the broad strokes.

The CHL transfer agreement

Section 8.7 covers the CHL transfer agreement. Basically, if a drafted player signs an NHL contract they have to be offered back to their junior team for their 18 and 19 year old seasons. By convention, this offer is never refused. When the junior team’s season is complete, though, the under-20 player can play in the AHL.