Juraj Slafkovsky has a big season ahead of him this season, and some rules pertaining to entry-level contracts (ELC) may influence the way the Montreal Canadiens will use him this coming season.
Slafkovsky signed his ELC with the Montreal Canadiens earlier this month and looks primed to show up to training camp with the goal of cracking the main roster right away. The Montreal Canadiens will have many options when it comes to how they’ll want to utilize Slafkovsky in his first season in North America, but when Juraj Slafkovsky gets to camp this fall, there are two thresholds of games played that will need to be monitored closely.
The Contract Slide Rule
The first is the nine-game rule, where a player of age 18 or 19 can see their contract slide if they play nine games or less in the NHL that given season. Here is the full rule below, per section 9.1 (d) of the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement:
“In the event that an 18-year-old or 19-year-old player signs an SPC with a club but does not play at least ten (10) NHL games in the first season under that SPC, the term of his SPC and his number of years in the entry-level system shall be extended for a period of one (1) year.”
This means that if Slafkovsky plays the grand majority of the season for the Canadiens’ AHL affiliate, the Laval Rocket, and plays less than ten games for the Canadiens all season, his ELC would slide a year. Albeit unlikely, should the Canadiens go down this route, it would give them an extra year of Slafkovsky in a cost-controlled situation as they look to continue revamping their salary cap structure. With Slafkovsky’s signing, the Canadiens currently have 15 projected NHL forwards in their lineup; and that doesn’t include any surprises from any other prospects. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to see Slafkovsky start in Laval to get acclimatized to the North American game, but it would seem highly unlikely that he doesn’t play at least 10 NHL games this season.
The Free Agency Counter
The Contract Slide rule isn’t the only threshold the Canadiens need to consider this season, as the next one directly impacts when Slafkovsky can become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) in the future. A player can become an unrestricted free agent after they’ve accrued seven seasons of NHL experience or are 27 years of age and older, per section 10.1 (a) of the NHL’s CBA:
“Any player who either has seven (7) accrued seasons or is 27 years of age or older as of June 30 of the end of a league year, shall, if his most recent contract has expired, with such expiry occurring either as of June 30 of such league year or June 30 of any prior league year, become an Unrestricted Free Agent.”
According to the NHL, a season is accrued when a player is on a club’s active roster for 40 or more regular season games for skaters and 30 or more for goaltenders. This means that, if Slafkovsky were to play more than 40 games next season, he would be eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2030 at age 25. However, if he were to split time between Montreal and Laval and play less than 40 NHL games during the 2022-2023 season, he would not have accrued a season and would thus delay his ability to become a UFA by a year; bringing us to 2031.
Plays For Montreal Canadiens All Season?
There is also the possibility that Juraj Slafkovsky will prove himself too good to keep down and plays the full season in Montreal, thereby burning the first year of his contract and starting the countdown toward his UFA eligibility in the summer of 2030. The youngster certainly has the potential to impress and rise above adversity in a unique way and could surprise both management and fans come training camp; forcing them to make a move to keep him in their lineup for the long-term.
The Montreal Canadiens will have a plethora of options and will be able to monitor Slafkovsky’s usage on a daily basis and it will be most interesting to see where he’s at in his development come September.