Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Rules: Entry-level contracts

Very soon, Zach Bogosian's contract signing will be announced. We already know several things about what that contract will look like, just from reading the CBA.
1. He will be paid a maximum of $875,000 in base pay. It's rare that first rounders don't get the max.
2. His signing bonus cannot be higher than 10% of his pay (including bonus)
3. Performance bonuses could top the total out at about $3.7 million
4. The contract will be for three years, because he's 18

The last point is the focus of this post about rules. Whenever a deal is signed, people inevitably will ask how long it's for. Well, it's not a mystery, nor negotiable, when it's an entry-level contract. There's a chart in the CBA (Article 9) that says exactly how long the contract is for. Entry-level deals are for a pre-determined number of years depending on the player's age at the time of the deal. All of this is unchanged from the previous CBA.

Age (on Sept 15) ......... Years of contract
18-21 ..............................3 years
22-23 ..............................2 years
24 ..................................1 year
25 and older ..................No required number (unless European*)

The rules are supposed to protect rookies, to give them time to develop while under contract. The biggest complaint with it is that teams often want to sign older rookies to longer deals, but are hamstrung by the CBA.

*Europeans have additional stipulations, in that players aged 25-27 are still subject to the entry-system for one year. Ilya Nikulin would have fallen into this for 2008, but would not in 2009, since he will then be 28. (Currently, the Thrashers indefinitely retain his NHL rights due to the lack of IIHF agreement. If a deal is signed sometime before next fall, Nikulin would likely be a free agent, per NHL rules.)

After the entry-level contract is over, a team can sign a player for as many years as it wishes. Insert your own Rick DiPietro jokes here.

Because of the rookie maximums on salary and bonuses, there's not much that's negotiable in an entry-level deal. This actually makes signing first-rounders rather easy for teams to do, if the team thinks the player is worth it. If they do not think the player is worth it, they can release the player back into the draft and receive a second-round pick as compensation. The Minnesota Wild did this in 2007with A.J. Thelen, who is now on a tryout in Austria.

Entry-level contracts are all also two-way deals, meaning there is a different salary paid in the AHL than the NHL. And this is capped as well. A player drafted in 2006 can be paid a maximum of $62,500 in the AHL (I picked that year instead of the current year because those are the guys who are mostly turning pro this year.) Entry-level players can also be sent to the ECHL at any time, no consent necessary.

This ends today's reading from the CBA. Peace be with you.

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