The Montreal Canadiens used a convenient clause in the NHL’s CBA to retain the rights of one of their goaltending prospects.
Understanding the ins and outs of the NHL’s CBA is tough, especially when it comes to player rights and draft statuses.
While the Montreal Canadiens are expected to relinquish their rights to goaltending prospect Frederik Dichow, it seems that they’ll be able to hold onto Joe Vrbetic for another two years.
Usually, NHL teams have two years to sign a player drafted out of the three Canadian major junior leagues (WHL, OHL and QMJHL). If a player is left unsigned on June 1 two years after being drafted, they would have to re-enter the draft. If a player then goes undrafted, they would become an unrestricted free agent; eligible to sign with any team.
However, Joe Vrbetic was in a very unusual situation, jumping to the pros at 19 years old; a decision that the Canadiens will benefit from moving forward.
According to clause 8.6(ii) of the NHL CBA, Vrbetic is eligible to have his rights extended due to having left major junior a year early.
If a Player who is drafted as an 18-year-old ceases to play in the Juniors in the second League Year after he has been drafted and the Club has tendered to such Player a Bona Fide Offer pursuant to 8.6(a)(ii), his drafting Club shall have the exclusive right of negotiation for his services until the fourth June 1 following his initial selection in the Entry Draft.
Thus, because Vrbetic turned pro a few months before turning 20 by signing a contract with the Laval Rocket last season, his rights were thereby extended by two years. The 2022-2023 season would have been his “second year after having been drafted”, but he instead spent it honing his craft in the pros, mostly with the Trois-Rivières Lions.
That means that the Montreal Canadiens could sign Vrbetic to another AHL contract with the Laval Rocket next season to have the 20-year-old continue his development with the Lions or the Rocket without taking up one of the organization’s 50 contract slots.
With clubs being limited to only 50 players on NHL deals, including the 23 players that make up their opening day roster, they needed to be picky about who they chose to keep around.
However, utilizing a loophole like this not only gives the Canadiens more contract flexibility, it offers them more time to evaluate Vrbetic’s progress for a few more years before taking a final decision.