As the NHL season approaches the nine-game mark, teams will need to make decisions about whether or not to keep their rookies on their roster.
Should a rookie play more than nine regular season or playoff games in one NHL season, then their entry-level contract will begin. If the player plays nine or less NHL games before being sent back to their junior or their European clubs, then their entry-level contract slides to the next season and no longer counts towards the 50-contract limit. There is also an exception whereby rookies without a major junior affiliation can play a full season in the AHL without burning a year of their entry-level contract. This is why Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen still has a three years left on his entry-level, despite playing nine NHL games and 52 AHL games. Anaheim defenseman Jacob Larsson and Buffalo winger Alexander Nylander are able to slide, should they remain in the AHL for the remainder of the year.
There are 21 players still in the NHL who can slide to next year. Here’s a list, with games played (GP) and where they can be sent (information via Cap Friendly):
D Brandon Carlo (7 GP, Tri-City Americans, WHL)
LW Matthew Tkachuk (7 GP, London Knights, OHL)
LW Sebastian Aho (7 GP, Charlotte Checkers, AHL or Kärpät, Liiga)
LW Mikko Rantanen (1 GP, San Antonio Rampage, AHL)
D Zach Werenski (7 GP, Cleveland Monsters, AHL)
RW Jesse Puljujärvi (6 GP, Bakersfield Condors, AHL or Kärpät, Liiga)
C Denis Malgin (7 GP, Springfield Thunderbirds, AHL or ZSC Lions, NLA)
C Joel Eriksson Ek (4 GP, Iowa Wild, AHL or Färjestad, SHL)
D Mikhail Sergachev (3 GP, Windsor Spitfires, OHL) (Assigned to junior Oct. 31)
C Pavel Zacha (7 GP, Sarnia Sting, OHL)
LW Patrik Laine (8 GP, Manitoba Moose, AHL or Tappara, Liiga)
Matthews, Marner, Aho, Konecny, and Laine appear to be locks to remain in the NHL for good, while Werenski, Puljujärvi, and Provorov are more likely than not to stay in the NHL. The remainder of the list could go either way.
Should a player stick beyond nine games, there is another key deadline to be aware of: 40 games. Should a player play 40 games, then that season counts towards unrestricted free agency. A player must play seven seasons in order to qualify. This has happened twice in recent memory: Daniel Sprong played 18 games with the Penguins last season, starting the clock on his entry-level contract, but not burning a year towards UFA; the Oilers kept Leon Draisaitl in the NHL for 37 games in 2014-15.