There has been quite the influx of prospect signings today as no fewer than four players have inked their entry-level contracts. This isn’t a coincidence as March 1st is an important day on the NHL calendar that often goes under the radar.
When players sign contracts in-season, the first year of the deal has to be the current season until March 1st arrives. Section 50.8(d) of the CBA notes the following:
No Club or Player may enter into an SPC that does not cover at least the then current League Year. The foregoing does not apply to an SPC entered into pursuant to Section 50.5(f), or to Unsigned Draft Choices or Draft Related Unrestricted Free Agents, who shall be permitted to sign an SPC during the period from March 1 through June 1 immediately preceding the League Year in which such SPC is to take effect.
As a result, today was the first day that prospects could sign entry-level deals that don’t begin until the 2018-19 campaign. While most of the press releases announcing the signings did not state the actual term of the contract, it’s safe to assume that all of them will begin next season if the teams have waited until now to finalize the contracts.
This doesn’t mean that all entry-level deals signed from now until the end of the season will begin in 2018-19 though. Teams are still able to sign players to contracts where the first year is 2017-18, something we’ll see in the weeks to come as NCAA free agency opens up as NHL teams looking to make their offer stand out will offer to ‘burn’ the first year of the entry-level pact. That way, the player will get to restricted free agency one year earlier.
While the trade activity will come to a screeching halt in the coming months with the trade deadline having come and gone, there will be plenty of prospects signing these ‘future contracts’ in the days and weeks to come.