Over the past several days, news has been trickling out about some of the new elements of the CBA. TSN’s Frank Seravalli was the first to report (Twitter link) that there is a big change coming to free agency as the interview period has been removed. Now, teams won’t legally be permitted to talk to players until the opening of free agency. While that had previously been speculated to be November 1st, that’s now projected to be October 9th as per the tentative critical dates calendar. Having said that, that seems likely to be pushed back a little bit as some of the other target dates in there (such as camps opening July 10th) have already been delayed slightly; camps won’t open now until the 13th.
This will once again fundamentally shift the free agent landscape. The interview window was put in during the last CBA to give teams a chance to speak to players in advance to gauge their interest in joining their franchise. Of course, that’s not exactly how it played out as in recent years, as deals in principle were reported a couple of days before July 1st with quite a few others getting leaked in the hours leading up to the opening of the market.
With the window not being used properly, the NHL and NHLPA have decided to go back to the old way which is no permissible contact until the market officially opens up. That will present some challenges as the market will likely go back to being one where teams make offers that expire in a very limited timeframe as they need to know whether or not they have to pivot to alternative options.
Of course, this upcoming UFA period – be it in October or early November – is going to be a rather unique one. The freezing of the salary cap at $81.5MM is going to handcuff quite a few teams and there were already some that were pegged to be having some cap trouble anyway. Accordingly, this is likely to deflate the market somewhat and adding that to eliminating any legal contact with free agents beforehand is going to create a very unique marketplace a couple of months from now.