On a day when the Hobey Baker Hat Trick was announced by the Hobey Baker Memorial Award Foundation, we are no doubt reminded that sans the Frozen Four, the 2011-2012 college hockey campaign is in the rear view. Of the three finalists, Spencer Abbott and Austin Smith have already signed entry level pro contracts, Abbott returns to his native Ontario to play for the Leafs organization and Smith joins former BU star Alex Chiasson as a member of the Dallas AHL affiliate, Texas Stars. The swift ending to the season of all but four fortunate teams serves as a frank reminder that, as fans of college hockey, we truly must appreciate the sport on a game by game or perhaps season by season basis because, as the iconic Bob Dylan proclaims – “Times They Are A Changin.”
Whether it is the whimsical, transient nature of the professional ranks – where free agency and an unfettered infatuation with the all mighty dollar have seemingly ruined any sense of allegiance or the “one and done” NCAA sports mentality, it is no longer conceivable for an athlete to stay in one particular place for more than a few seasons. Gone are the days of 5th year seniors and heroic figures like Cal Ripken who stayed in one address long enough for fervent fans to endear themselves to them.
I mean, you can’t even buy a jersey anymore with someone’s name on it because they will
be whisked away to another team before you know it – ie.- trade deadline move, free agency exodus, or in the college hockey realm terms – early departure to the CHL or NHL. As an owner of an Adam Vinatieri Patriots jersey and a Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox shirt, I am fully aware of the tenuous nature of sports these days.
Now, I will admit, college hockey is certainly more stable in terms of tenure than some of its brethren – namely, college basketball. College hoops powers like Kentucky and Carolina have become virtual “one and done” breeding grounds for the NBA. I would compare these programs to the CHL as far as player development is concerned because, let’s face it, if a blue chipper signs an NLI to play for Coach Cal in Lexington, we all know it will be a one year stint, two tops, before that athlete departs for the NBA. Young star athletes who decide to play in the Canadian major junior leagues or at top notch hoops schools like Kentucky are clearly deciding to play there strictly for the player development aspect and not the academic or even fraternal side of the ledger.
Speaking of transient athletes…man ‘o man has it been a wild and crazy week on the HEA transaction wire – some players departing to the pro ranks while others are gone before we even knew them – ala Former NU recruit John Gillies. Two thirds of the famed 1st line at the University of Maine now have new homes in the AHL thanks to some maximum, 2 way entry level deals this week for Spencer Abbott and Brian Flynn. Sebastian Stalberg of the last place Vermont Catamounts was one of the first chips to fall so to speak, as the BF reported several weeks ago – and the frenzy of moving parts has not stopped ever since.
I entered the blogosphere as a green horned, newbie just a few months back so this is admittedly the first time that I have explicitly followed every tidbit of information as it pertains to the NHL Free Agent signings this time of year. So as many of us amateurs do, I turned my attention to Cap Geek and Google to decipher, exactly what all of these entry level deals and contractual, legal speak, all truly entail. Sometimes, it helps the average citizen, much like myself, to keep things in simple terms when it comes to arcane, superfluous dealings like our much maligned Healthcare Bill that even top tiered medical folks don’t fully understand.
So, what can we make of all of these entry level deals? I have pasted a simple breakdown from Cap Geek below that breaks down the main principles behind each and every entry level deal. The terms basically come down to just a few factors, mainly, a players age and the year he has signed the deal.
From CAP GEEK:
|How do entry-level contracts work?Players younger than 25 as of Sept. 15 in the calendar year their first NHL contract is signed are subject to the terms of Article 9 of the CBA and must sign an entry-level contract (ELC). This means the amount of salary and team-paid performance bonuses is capped, depending on his draft year or the year he signs. The length of the ELC is also specified based on the player’s age.
18-21 3 years
22-23 2 years
24 1 year
25+ No Restriction *
* A one-year entry-level restriction applies to drafted players from Europe aged 25 to 27.
All ELCs are two-way contracts and can be extended by as many as two seasons (see “How does a contract slide?” in this FAQ). The maximum allowable salaries for players selected in each entry draft are as follows:
2011 and beyond: $925,000
ELCs can contain two types of bonuses: signing bonuses and performance bonuses.
Signing bonuses cannot exceed 10 percent of the contract’s total compensation. They are typically paid out annually.
Performance bonuses, or Exhibit 5 bonuses, cannot exceed $2,850,000. These bonuses are divided into two categories: Schedule A and Schedule B.
Schedule A bonuses cannot exceed $212,500 per individual bonus and $850,000 in aggregate
The majority of NCAA players who are left undrafted, and I must admit I was stunned at the level of talent left in the free agent pool this year, move from the college ranks to either the AHL or a step down to the ECHL. There are rare exceptions of the free agent variety, including Reilly Smith of the Miami Redhawks, who signed on with the Dallas Stars this week and made was set to make his pro debut last night…but for the most part, the free agents signed this time of the year are typically minor league bound – for cap and skill reasons of course.
versus a high round draftee (ala- Chris Kreider)…it’s a must read piece as usual by Peters. If you wondered why the 24 year old Flynn signed only a one year deal with the Buffalo Sabres, please refer to the entry level cheat sheet pasted above (from CAP GEEK) and take notice of the contract length associated with 24 year olds (1 year) and you will see how this starts to make some sense.
The Bruins were in the mix during this free agent spree as well as they signed the slick, puck moving defenseman (this term invokes negative connotations in my mind because of the Kaberle signing last year) Torey Krug, a junior from Michigan State. Now, because of the competitive market for Krug, The Bruins- although they signed him to a two way deal – guaranteed Krug the full $925K normally only awarded to players who join the NHL team and suit up for 10 games. According to the esteemed Bruins beat reporters, it is doubtful that the 5ft9” Krug (Livonia, MI) will actually see any ice time for the big club this year.
It’s always refreshing to see a senior player, like Merrimack G Joe Cannata, earn his degree and then be rewarded for it with a nice pro contract. Cannata signed last week with the Vancouver Canucks and will report to the AHL Chicago Wolves. Given the shaky nature of Roberto Luongo, we can only hope that Cannata will join fellow HEA tender, Cory Schneider of BC fame in the Vancouver mix.
Now for the rumblings that have emanated from Huntington Ave…pooooor Northeastern. Not only did junior G- Chris Rawlings struggle down the stretch for NU and fail to earn an NHL contract, but his incumbency (returning for his senior year) resulted in the rescinding of blue chip goalie and Maine native, John Gillies’ NLI. OUCH!!!! To add insult to injury, the Huskies are also losing F- Rob Dongara (transferring) as well as D- Anthony Bitetto (signed with the Nashville Predators). Junior Hockey reporter extraordinaire, Nate Founier has the take on the Gillies situation in the Maine Hockey Journal.
I haven’t even mentioned the fact that they lost a very popular figure last year in coach Greg Cronin (coach in the Maple Leafs organization) and lost out on arguably the best freshman HEA has witnessed in several years, Johnny Gaudreau, who defected to BC after Cronin left for the NHL.
The Husky Hockey Blog offered out a very informative and resourceful list of all the comings and goings in HEA as they stand today: