You may have noticed a lot of discussion lately on players that will become free agents this summer. Who will get re-signed, who will move on to another team, etc.? You may have also seen players described as unrestricted or restricted free agents. So, are you wondering what all this means? Let me break it down into BlondeSpeak for you.
The free agency period begins on July 1. Any player, whose contract has expired and is at least 27 years old or has been an NHL player for at least 7 years, will become an unrestricted free agent. An unrestricted free agent is free to negotiate a contract with any NHL team. Their current team receives no compensation for the loss of the unrestricted free agent. (Prior to 2005, teams losing unrestricted free agents were awarded draft picks as compensation).
Restricted free agents are players that; while they are no longer considered “entry-level” players; they do not qualify as unrestricted free agents, when their contracts expire. There are 3 basic types of “entry-level” players; players between 18 & 21, who sign an “entry-level” contract for 3 seasons; players aged 22-23 sign a 2 season contract; and players aged 24 sign a 1 season contract. A restricted free agent’s current team must extend a “qualifying offer” to him in order to keep negotiating rights to that player. If that qualifying offer is not made, that player becomes an unrestricted free agent. If a “qualifying offer” is made but the restricted free agent rejects it, he continues to remain a restricted free agent. If the player does not sign before December 1st, he is ineligible to play in the NHL for the remainder of the season.
Part of the qualifying offer includes required salary increases based on their current salary. If a player earns less than $660,000, his offer must include 110% of last season’s salary. Players earning $660,001 - $1,000,000 must be offered 105%, and players earning over $1,000,000 must be offered 100%. Now, there are a few special rules in regards to arbitration of a player’s salary and conditions that must be met, but as this does not further define what the essence of a restricted free agent is, I’m not gonna muddy the waters with it.
So, what does all this mean with regards to the Washington Capitals? Currently, the following players will be unrestricted free agents on July 1 if an offer from the Washington Capitals is not made and accepted: Jason Arnott, Matt Bradley, Boyd Gordon, Scott Hannan, Brooks Laich, and Marco Sturm. There are also 6 Hersey Bears/Stingrays players who will be unrestricted free agents on July 1 if no offer is made/accepted: Sean Collins, Brian Fahey, Todd Ford, Steve Pinizzotto, Dany Sabourin, and Brian Willsie. I should add that there is one more player that will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1 – Michael Nylander. I wasn’t really going to factor him into the discussion, but to be fair, he does belong to the list. I think we can all rest assured that he will not receive an offer from the Caps.
As for restricted free agents, Karl Alzner and Semyon Varlamov will be the 2 Caps players that are hoping to get a “Qualified Offer”, as well as a bunch of Hershey guys that include Andrew Gordon and Mathieu Perreault.
And, on a side note: on July 1, 2012, Alex Semin, Jason Chimera. Dennis Wideman, Tyler Sloan, and DJ King will become unrestricted free agents. Mike Green, Eric Fehr and John Carlson will become restricted free agents. See what you have to look forward too?
It is interesting to note that as of this post, none of the Caps players listed (restricted or unrestricted) have been announced as receiving or signing offers. They may be in the works and there may be some good news for fans of these players any time between now and July 1, but if July 1 rolls around without any announcements, my advice to you is to keep watch for most of these players to be signed by other teams. As you may have heard, Brooks Laich expressed in his season end exit interview that he hopes to be a Washington Capital next season, and I personally know some Matt Bradley and Boyd Gordon fans that will be terribly sad if none of these guys rock the red for the 2011-2012 NHL season. And while Jason Arnott certainly proved himself to be a good acquisition as a veteran player, is his time over or will be get the nod for one more year? There has been a great deal of speculation on whether or not Varly will get a qualifying offer, but rumor has it that Alzner is going to be a lock for next year. Personally, I think the free agency deadline is more interesting than the draft, considering we already know the guys in question, and I can’t wait to hear some good news about the Caps roster in the next few weeks. Fingers crossed!