With the ten-game mark of the season fast approaching, many teams are facing decisions about whether or not to officially burn the first year of the entry-level contracts for many of their teenaged players. Some decisions appear to be fairly obvious while others aren’t as much of a guarantee. Here’s a look at the situations for the players whose contracts could potentially slide a year.
(F Maxime Comtois of the Ducks has already played in ten games to officially start his entry-level deal.)
Nine Games Played
Out of this group, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that each will play in one more game. Calgary’s depth on the back end could make Valimaki a candidate to be cut but he has acquitted himself relatively well so far, establishing himself as a legitimate regular so it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll be sent down.
Eight Games Played
Heiskanen is averaging more than 20 minutes a night already so it’s safe to say he’ll be sticking around. Canadiens head coach Claude Julien acknowledged that he hasn’t even discussed the possibility of sending Kotkaniemi down so he’s a safe bet to stay as well. Injuries have forced Anaheim’s hand with Lundestrom and with several regulars still out indefinitely, there’s a reasonable chance he’ll stick around as well. Rasmussen’s case isn’t quite as certain. He hasn’t had much of an impact yet and has spent a fair bit of time in the bottom six already. While he’d be forced to go back to junior, that may make the most sense from an organizational standpoint. This season is already going off the rails for Detroit so they may take the longer-term view here.
Seven Games Played
Carolina has already sent Necas to the AHL for now so they’ll take some more time to evaluate his future. As for Yamamoto, he has logged over 14 minutes a night which is rather respectable but his production hasn’t been there. He’s a player that needs to be in an offensive role to thrive so if he isn’t scoring, they may deem that it’s better to send him to the AHL for now and then decide what to do later in the year.
Six Games Played
D Evan Bouchard (EDM)
Edmonton’s back end isn’t in the best of shape and the tenth pick back in June has had an up-and-down start to his year. He has looked good in the attacking end but has struggled at times in his own zone. The Oilers have sat him already and it wouldn’t be shocking to see them do so a few more times in the weeks ahead to give them more time to decide on his future.
Five Games Played
Formenton’s speed has been a real weapon for Ottawa but it hasn’t translated to much in the way of production just yet. He isn’t able to go to the AHL yet so he’d be heading back to OHL London if he’s cut. His case is one of the closest to being a pure toss-up at the moment so it wouldn’t be surprising if he sits a game or two to buy more time to make the decision. Thomas has played a limited role for the Blues and with Robby Fabbri and Nikita Soshnikov now on conditioning stints, he may soon be forced back to junior even though he doesn’t have much left to prove at that level. Vesalainen is currently in the AHL so Winnipeg’s decision on what to do with him won’t come until later on.
(Jaret Anderson-Dolan of the Kings has played five games but was recently sent back to junior meaning that he can only be brought back in an emergency recall situation.)
Four Games Played
F Brady Tkachuk (OTT)
Tkachuk was off to a very strong start (3-3-6 in four games) before tearing a ligament in his leg that will keep him out for several more weeks. Assuming he can maintain a spot in their top-six upon his return, he’ll be a safe bet to stick around past the ten-game mark.
Two Games Played
D Urho Vaakanainen (BOS)
The Finnish blueliner suffered a concussion on Tuesday night in his second game on emergency recall. As he can be shuttled back and forth with AHL Providence, this case will likely take a while for the Bruins to decide on as he’ll likely be headed back to the minors when he gets the green light to return.
For some teams, this particular threshold may not be the one they’re most concerned with. Lately, more teams have set the 40-games on the active roster mark (not necessarily games played) as the critical threshold. That one determines whether or not a player accrues a season towards unrestricted free agency. For most players, that threshold is 27 years old but players younger than that can reach that mark with seven years of service time.
Accordingly, even if many of these players make it to game number ten, their NHL fates may be far from sealed just yet. For those whose likelihood to make it to that mark is less certain, the next couple of weeks are going to be crucial in determining their short-term playing futures.