Who can sign 8-year deals in the NHL?
With the free agency launching soon and with a lot of talk about the potential future of Zach Hyman, it’s time to relearn the rules for signing eight-year SPCs.
The KBA from 2013, which was still in force, provided for an upper limit for new contracts of seven years. There was an exception for teams that wanted to give their own players – RFAs or UFAs – another year.
(b) The following practices are also not permitted under this Agreement and may not be incorporated into SPC or otherwise agreed by any club, individual, or legal entity:
(iv) An SPC with a term of more than seven (7) years, provided that a club can sign a player to an SPC with a term of up to eight (8) years if that player is in that club’s reserve was list from and since the last close of trading. With respect to potential unrestricted free agents only, the ability to re-sign a player for an eight (8) year SPC will expire if the player becomes an unrestricted free agent. In relation to a player becoming a Restricted Group 2 Free Agent, a club may sign that player for a term of up to eight (8) years to an SPC provided that player is on the reserve list and / or roster of the restricted free agents of this club is from and since the last close of trading.
The reserve list includes unsigned drafted players and all other unsigned players for whom a team has exclusive signing rights. All players who have to be signed with an ELC cannot get a longer term, as the ELC rules prescribe the contract term. Any player who is contracted as an RFA or UFA and who was on the team that signed it at the time of the trading deadline can receive an eight-year contract.
The Maple Leafs could sign an eight-year contract with Joseph Woll or Nick Foligno or Zach Hyman. You can’t trade Dougie Hamilton and then sign him for eight years.
For players whose contracts are about to expire – outstanding UFAs – this opportunity to sign eight-year contracts expires at midnight before the free agency opens. The transition rules for the 2020-2021 season make this clear with this year’s unusual date:
July 27: The club’s ability to advertise its own potential UFAs for eight (8) years of SPC expires (11:59 p.m. New York time).
There is only one exception to this rule and that is Seattle’s privileges. From an ESPN overview:
What are the pre-draft rules for signing a free agent in Seattle?
Chaplain: From Sunday to July 21st, the Kraken will have an exclusive negotiation window with any outstanding free agents who are not protected by the other 30 teams. If Seattle signs any of these players it will count as their selection from that club. And if Seattle signs that player to a contract before the free agency starts on July 28th, the Kraken can offer a maximum extension of eight years. After that, Seattle will only be able to issue seven-year contracts this summer.
This means the Kraken can sign Zach Hyman on an eight-year contract, the Leafs can sign Zach Hyman on an eight-year contract, and both have until midnight on July 27th. The only option for the Kraken is to sign Hyman as a pick from the Maple Leafs.
No one can exchange the signing rights and sign Hyman’s eight-year contract with the exception of Seattle, depending on how those rules are written about their rights to sign eight-year contracts.
The Memo of Understanding signed in 2020, which extends the current CBA, changed this rule in a certain way:
CBA §50.8 (b) (iv) is changed so that if a club acquires a player who is signed within the subsequent trading period, they can immediately commit to an 8-year SPC, without the subsequent trading period maintenance is permitted in accordance with Section 50.5 (f)
This means that if the Maple Leafs traded Morgan Rielly to any team at any time between now and the next trading deadline, the acquiring team could immediately sign it for an eight-year extension. The Leafs can of course extend Rielly by eight years.
The only way to get around this requirement that a player receiving an eight year extension cannot be an expired UFA and must have been on the signing team by the previous close of trading (or the next signed) is a sign and trade. The Maple Leafs could sign a valid eight-year SPC with Hyman today and then close the deal with the team that wanted that deal to be closed. As best as we can remember, this has never happened in the NHL.
Who can and who cannot conclude eight-year contracts.
Cap Friendly has a list of all current players on contracts of eight years or more (some deals that are before the 2013 CBA limits are still in effect). There are a surprising 56 names on the list with some signings like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Joel Eriksson Ek.