NHL CBA Explained

In this section, we help explain the answers to some common questions regarding the NHL CBA. We’ll be adding new answers on a regular basis. If there’s something you’d like profiled here,

To access the NHL CBA in it’s entirety, you can obtain it from NHL.com here.

What is an SPC?

SPC stands for Standard Player’s Contract. It is quite simply an acronym for any valid NHL player contract. It is a standardized contract that acts as the sole form of contract for all player signings compliant with the latest NHL CBA.

Excerpt (NHL CBA ARTICLE 1 – page 8):
“Standard Player’s Contract” or “SPC” means the standard form contract attached hereto as Exhibit 1 which will be the sole form of employment contract used for all Player signings after the execution of this Agreement.

What’s the difference between a No-Movement Clause (NMC) and a No-Trade Clause (NTC)?
A No-Movement Clause prohibits a team from moving a player by trade, loan or waivers, or assigning that player to the minors without the player’s consent. This keeps the player with the pro team unless permitted by the player to move the player by one of these means. A No-Movement Clause does not restrict a team from buying out or terminating a player’s contract.

A No-Trade Clause is less restrictive, as it only places restrictions on movement by trade. A player with a No-Trade Clause cannot be traded by a team unless the player provides consent. A Partial or Modified No-Trade Clause is often less restrictive than a Full No-Trade Clause, and depends on the conditions outlined in the player’s contracts. Often these are No-Trade Clauses with conditions that give the player the right to provide a list of teams to which the team can or cannot trade the player.

Many players will have No-Movement Clauses tied to their contracts with Partial or Modified No-Trade Clauses. These prevent the team from moving the player via loan or waivers, but give the team some options for trading the player.

Note: a player is not eligible for a NMC or NTC in their contract until they are eligible for Group 3 Unrestricted Free Agency (7 accrued seasons or 27 years of age). A player can sign a contract that has a NMC or NTC take effect partway through the contract at the time they would have otherwise become eligible for Group 3 Unrestricted Free Agency.

Excerpt (NHL CBA ARTICLE 11.8):

11.8 Individually Negotiated Limitations on Player Movement.

(a) The SPC of any Player who is a Group 3 Unrestricted Free Agent under Article 10.1(a) may contain a no-Trade or a no-move clause. SPCs containing a no-Trade or a no-move clause may be entered into prior to the time that the Player is a Group 3 Unrestricted Free Agent so long as the SPC containing the no-Trade or no-move clause extends through and does not become effective until the time that the Player qualifies for Group 3 Unrestricted Free Agency. If the Player is Traded or claimed on Waivers prior to the no-Trade or no-move clause taking effect, the clause does not bind the acquiring Club. An acquiring Club may agree to continue to be bound by the no-Trade or no-move clause, which agreement shall be evidenced in writing to the Player, Central Registry and the NHLPA, in accordance with Exhibit 3 hereof.

(b) A no-Trade clause or a no-move clause that is negotiated as part of an extension of an SPC entered into pursuant to Section 50.5(f) may become effective immediately upon registration of, but prior to the effective date of, such SPC extension, provided: (i) the Player would otherwise have been eligible as of the immediately preceding July 1 prior to signing the SPC extension to have a no-Trade or no-move clause pursuant to Section 11.8; and (ii) the Club and the Player, who are parties to such SPC extension, agree that the no-Trade or no-move clause is effective immediately upon execution of the SPC extension (or at some later date agreed to by the Club and the Player) and evidence such agreement in writing in the SPC.

(c) A no-move clause may prevent the involuntary relocation of a Player, whether by Trade, Loan or Waiver claim. A no-move clause, however, may not restrict the Club’s Buy-Out and termination rights as set forth in this Agreement. Prior to exercising its Ordinary Course Buy-Out rights pursuant to Paragraph 13 of the SPC hereof, the Club shall, in writing in accordance with the notice provisions in Exhibit 3 hereof, provide the Player with the option of electing to be placed on Waivers. The Player will have twenty-four (24) hours from the time he receives such notice to accept or reject that option at his sole discretion, and shall so inform the Club in writing, in accordance with the notice provisions in Exhibit 3 hereof, within such twenty-four (24) hour period. If the player does not timely accept or reject that option, it will be deemed rejected.

What are Offer Sheets?

“Offer Sheets” are contracts that can be offered to a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) by a team that does not own his rights. Teams can offer other teams’ RFAs an SPC that is considered an offer sheet. The team owning the player’s rights will have 7 days to exercise a Right of First Refusal. Note that during these 7 days, the team cannot trade the player and the Right of First Refusal to any other team.

If the team exercises their Right of First Refusal, they will be obligated to sign the player to an SPC with all terms matching those of the offer sheet. Additional terms may be agreed upon between the RFA and the team. The team then cannot trade the player for a period of one year from the date they exercised their Right of First Refusal.

If the team does not exercise their Right of First Refusal, the player will enter into an SPC with the team that submitted the offer sheet. The team owning the RFA rights will then receive draft pick compensation for the player, based on the Annual Average Value (AAV) of the contract.

All compensation draft picks must be the team’s original draft picks (no substitutions with picks acquired from other teams). If a team does not own the required picks, the offer sheet will be deemed null and void. A team can reacquire their own draft picks in order to become eligible for RFA offer sheets. The AAV amounts outlined increase annually at the same percentage rate as the Average League Salary increases year over year. The league releases an updated compensation chart before each off-season. Every draft selection required for compensation must be from the next draft, except where more than one draft pick from the same round is required for compensation. If N picks are required from the same round, they must be available in the next N + 1 drafts. So if 4 First Round Picks are owed, the next 5 drafts are eligible. The next available selections are taken. For example, teams cannot elect to compensate with the last 4 First Round Picks if they have 5 available. The 4 in the next 4 drafts are taken.

For offer sheet purposes, AAV is determined by dividing the total compensation offered by the lesser of the length of the contract, or by 5. For contracts longer than 5 years, this will result in a higher AAV than expected. Example: a 6 year offer sheet worth $20 million total, would be considered an AAV of $4 million ($20 million divided by 5) for offer sheet compensation purposes.

To see the current draft pick compensation chart, and which teams are eligible for offer sheets in each AAV range, please visit our Offer Sheet Eligibility page.

What is a Group VI UFA?

A Group VI (Group 6) Unrestricted Free Agent is a player signed to an SPC that is expiring with the following conditions:
(a) Player is 25 or older (as of June 30th of the calendar year the contract is expiring)
(b) Player has completed 3 or more professional seasons. A professional season is qualified by 11 or more professional games for an 18/19 year old player, or 1 or more professional games for a player aged 20 or older. This can include NHL, minor league, and European professional league seasons played while under an SPC.
(c) Player has played less than 80 NHL games or 28 NHL games of 30 minutes played or greater for a goaltender.

A player meeting the above conditions becomes eligible for unrestricted free agency at the conclusion of their SPC. They do not have to elect for this status, they automatically obtain it at the conclusion of the SPC. For a list of Group VI UFAs, visit the Free Agency page and look for players denoted as “UFA (VI)”.

Excerpt (NHL CBA ARTICLE 10.1(c)):
Group 6 Free Agents.

(i) Means any Player who is age 25 or older who has completed three (3) or more professional seasons, whose SPC has expired and: (i) in the case of a Player other than a goaltender, has played less than 80 NHL Games, or (ii) in the case of a goaltender, has played less than 28 NHL Games (for the purpose of this definition, a goaltender must have played a minimum of thirty (30) minutes in an NHL Game to register a game played). For the purposes of the foregoing, the term professional season shall: (A) for a Player aged 18 or 19, mean any season in which such Player plays in eleven (11) or more Professional Games (including NHL Regular Season and Playoff Games, minor league regular season and playoff games, and games played in any European professional league, while under an SPC), and (B) for a Player aged 20 or older, mean any season in which such Player plays in one or more Professional Games (including NHL Regular Season and Playoff Games, minor league regular season and playoff games, and games played in any European professional league, while under an SPC).

(ii) Any Group 6 Player shall, at the expiration of his SPC, become an Unrestricted Free Agent and shall be completely free to negotiate and sign an SPC with any Club, and any Club shall be completely free to negotiate and sign an SPC with such Player, without penalty or restriction, or being subject to any Right of First Refusal, Draft Choice Compensation or any other compensation or equalization obligation of any kind.

How does Draft Pick Compensation for Team Personnel work?
Draft Pick compensation for team personnel was introduced in its current form on January 1, 2015. It was implemented in response to concerns from teams that their front-office talent was leaving with no compensation to the team that invested resources in training and providing them experience. In a state of the union address in June 2015, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that the policy would run at least until January 2016, at which point they would revisit it.

Under the policy, teams can obtain compensation for the hiring of someone in their organization as a General Manager, President of Hockey Operations or Head Coach. The compensation for any of these roles for a person that is still under contract is dependent on whether it is considered in-season or off-season for the role. If in-season, compensation is a second-round draft pick. If they are hired during what is considered off-season for the role, the compensation is a third-round pick. For coaches, off-season begins once the team’s season or playoffs end. For a GM or President of Hockey Operations, the off-season begins after the NHL Entry Draft. A team can elect to receive or waive the compensation, making the decision when a team requests to negotiate or speak with the individual. Teams can also elect for compensation on personnel that they have fired, but remain under contract.

For the draft pick compensation, the draft pick can be from any of the next three drafts. At the time of the signing, the NHL and Central Registry encumber the team’s next available draft pick according to the compensation owed. A team must then express by June 1st before the draft whether they would like to fulfill the compensation with the existing year’s draft pick. Once 2 of the 3 possible years pass without the draft pick being fulfilled, or the team is left with just one possible draft pick to fulfill the obligation, the draft pick is immediately provided to the team receiving compensation. One condition on the draft picks is that the pick must be either the team’s own selection, or a selection higher in the round than their own pick.

An interesting example arose in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft where the Edmonton Oilers owed a 3rd round pick to the San Jose Sharks for the signing of head coach Todd McLellan. The Oilers did not have their own 2015 3rd round pick (previously traded to Anaheim), and did not have a pick higher in the 3rd round to forfeit (their pick was #3 in the 3rd round). As a result, the Oilers could not elect to forfeit their 2015 3rd round draft pick, so the Central Registry encumbered their 2016 3rd round pick, assigning it to San Jose. However, Edmonton did have a later 3rd round pick, 2015 STL 3, acquired in a previous trade. The pick was #26 in the round, so much later than the Oilers’ selection, but the Sharks had interest in the pick. The Sharks and Oilers came to an agreement to essentially trade the encumbered 2016 EDM 3 back to Edmonton in exchange for 2015 STL 3. The pick provided to San Jose did not technically meet the conditions of the personnel compensation rules, but was a satisfactory resolution for both sides.