The NHL is now in its annual roster freeze period which runs through December 28th. However, there still have been several transactions today and there are likely to be several more in the coming days. Let’s take a look at Rule 16.5 (d) in the CBA and go over what is and isn’t allowed during this period.
The first section of the rule reads as follows:
(i) For all Players on an NHL Active Roster, Injured Reserve, or Players with Non-Roster and Injured Non-Roster status as of 11:59 p.m. local time on December 19, a roster freeze shall apply through 12:01 a.m. local time December 28, with respect to Waivers, Trades and Loans; provided, however, that Players may be Recalled to NHL Clubs during this period and, provided further, that if a Player is placed on Regular Waivers prior to the roster freeze period and is claimed during such roster freeze period, the roster freeze period shall not apply and the Player shall immediately report to the claiming Club. However, during the roster freeze period a Club can make any Player transactions necessary for the Club to come into compliance with Article 50 as a result of a Player being removed from the Bona-Fide Long-Term Injury/Illness Exception.
First, it’s worth noting that recalls are still permitted so if a team has an injury in a game over the next couple of days, they will be able to bring up a replacement player as long as they remain cap-compliant.
In terms of what can’t be done, trades are certainly off the table as are waivers in the majority of circumstances. The exception is for a team to get into cap compliance to activate someone from LTIR. In that situation, demotions including waivers are still allowed. That said, we generally don’t see that happen at this time of year.
Now, let’s move on to the second section which digs into the majority of what we’ll see in the coming days:
(ii) Notwithstanding Section 16.5(d)(i), a Player on emergency Recall may be Loaned during the roster freeze period and a Player who was Recalled after December 11 may be Loaned through 11:59 p.m. local time on December 23, provided such Player is not required to be placed on Waivers during the roster freeze period in order to effectuate such Loan.
Anyone who is brought up on a recall after December 11th is still eligible to be sent down as long as it’s done by the end of Saturday. Sometimes, moves might be registered by then but won’t actually be announced publicly until the 24th. Meanwhile, a player on an emergency recall (when a team has fewer than twelve healthy forwards, six healthy defensemen, or two healthy goalies) can also be sent down when the emergency situation no longer applies.
In all likelihood, we’ll see a lot of these loans late on the 23rd, allowing teams to bank cap space for three days when the league shuts down between the 24th and 26th. If the player has recently cleared waivers, the demotion would also stop the 30-day clock (before needing to clear again) for a few days. The roster freeze may be in effect but there is still bound to be a high number of transactions during this time.