The Associated Press reports that players on AHL-only contracts will be allowed to play in the 2018 Winter Olympics. According to the report, the AHL sent a memo to all of its clubs articulating that players may be loaned to Olympic teams from February 5-26. The men’s ice hockey tourney runs from February 9-25.
What the memo doesn’t say, however, is whether players on NHL two-way contracts, or those players loaned to the AHL, will be eligible for the Olympics. Most signs point to no, however, as that would open up a loophole allowing teams to send its young, waiver-exempt players to the AHL for the purposes of playing in the Olympics. It would also be inconsistent with the league’s mandate that all players with NHL contracts are barred from the Olympics.
The AHL does not have a designated break during the two-week Olympic period, but the league is used to teams losing its best players as a matter of course. Players leaving for the Olympics is no different then players being recalled for two weeks. Unfortunately for national teams, however, the crop of AHL-only players may be only marginally better than those in the NCAA or Europe.