You can download the CBA in full here.

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Contract Structure
35+ Rule
Group III Unrestricted Free Agency
Group VI Unrestricted Free Agency
Qualifying Offers
Offer Sheets
Retaining Salary In Trades
Entry Level Slide
Cap Charge For Contracts Outside NHL
Cap-Benefit Recapture
No Movement and No Trade Clauses

Some important notes on the current NHL CBA:

Expiry: The CBA is set to expire after the 2021-22 season. There is an opt-out option after the 2019-20 season. The owners can opt-out on September 1, 2020. The players can opt-out September 15, 2020.


Contract Structure: Contracts can be no more than 7 years in length for players signed from outside the organization. Contracts can be up to 8 years in length for players that have played at least one full season with the re-signing team. The salary in one year can be a maximum of 35% less than the previous year. The salary in any year cannot be less than 50% of that of the highest paying year of the contract.


35+ Rule: Any multiyear contract which begins when the player is 35 or older (as of June 30 before the first season of the contract) will be considered a 35+ contract. 35+ contracts will carry their cap hit in any year past the first year in the amount the cap-hit exceeds $100,000, even if the player is demoted, retired or bought-out.


Group III Unrestricted Free Agency: A player becomes a Group III unrestricted free agent if, on the expiry of his contract, he is either 27 years old as of July 1, or has accrued 7 or more NHL seasons.


Group VI Unrestricted Free Agency: A player can become a Group VI unrestricted free agent if, on the expiry of his contract, he meets the following three criteria:

  • 25 years or older on July 1;
  • 3 or more professional seasons, and;
  • Played in fewer than 80 NHL games played (28 for a goaltender)

Qualifying Offers: In order to retain the rights of a restricted free agent, a team must make a qualifying offer. The qualifying offer must be a percentage of the previous year’s salary according to what pay range their previous year’s salary falls into.

Previous Year Salary QO Percentage
$660,000 or less 110%
$660,001 – $999,999 105%
$1,000,000 or greater 100%

A qualifying offer must be a one-way contract if the player has:

  • played in 180 NHL games or more during the previous 3 seasons (excluding games missed to injury).
  • played in 60 NHL games or more in the previous season (including games missed to injury).
  • not cleared waivers in the previous NHL season.

Arbitration: A restricted free agent is eligible for arbitration if he meets the professional experience requirements shown below for his age on September 15 of the calendar year in which he signed his first NHL contract:

Age Pro. Experience
18-20 4 years
21 3 years
22-23 2 years
24+ 1 year

According to the CBA: “A Player aged 18 or 19 earns a year of professional experience by playing ten (10) or more NHL Games in a given season. A Player aged 20 or older (or who turns 20 between September 16 and December 31 of the calendar year in which he signs his first SPC) earns a year of professional experience by playing ten (10) or more Professional Games under an SPC in a given season.”

Teams cannot walk away from any award less than $3.5 million annually.


Offer Sheets: If a team signs a restricted free agent to an offer sheet, the team holding the free agent’s rights will have the opportunity to match the terms of the contract within 7 days. Should they not match, they are entitled to compensation. The compensation will be based upon the total value of the contract divided by the number of years of the contract, to a maximum of 5 seasons. The bounds of the compensation are linked to the league’s average salary. For the 2013-14 season, the compensation is set as:

Average Salary Compensation
 $1,110,249 or below None
 $1,110,250 to $1,682,194 3rd Round Pick
 $1,682,195 to $3,364,391 2nd Round Pick
 $3,364,392 to $5,046,585 1st and 3rd Round Picks
 $5,046,586 to $6,728,781 1st, 2nd, 3rd Round Picks
 $6,728,782 To $8,410,976 2 1sts, 2nd, 3rd Round Picks
 Over $8,410,976 4 1st Round Picks

Retaining Salary In Trades: Teams trading a player can retain up to 50% of the player’s remaining salary in the trade. The team would retain the cap-hit in the same proportion as the retention of salary (i.e. Assuming a team retains 25% of a player’s salary, they will retain 25% of the remaining cap-hit). A single contract can have salary retained in up to two trades. A team can have a maximum of three traded players that they retained salary for at any time, and no more than 15% of the upper limit can be occupied by salary retained in such trades.


Entry Level Slide: If a player aged 18 or 19 on an entry level contract does not play in 10 or more NHL games during the season, his contract will “slide” and the contract will begin and end one year later. Age is calculated as at September 15th. A player whose contract slides does not count against the 50 contract limit for that season.


Cap Charge For Contracts Outside NHL: Sometimes referred to as the “Redden Rule”. Players with cap-hits greater than the NHL minimum salary plus $375,000 (i.e. $900,000 for 12/13, $925,000 for 13/14, 14/15) playing outside of the NHL will carry a cap charge equal to the excess over that amount. For example, Wade Redden’s cap charge for the 2012-13 season is equal $5,600,000, which is the amount his cap-hit ($6,500,000) exceeds the minimum salary plus $375,000 ($900,000). Players on two-way deals with the NHL salary in excess of the threshold stored in the minors will not carry a cap charge.


Cap-Benefit Recapture: If a player who signed a contract during the previous CBA seven years or longer retires during the term of the contract, and at that time of retirement their total salary received has been greater than the total cap hit charged, the team will be required to carry a cap-benefit recapture charge. The total recapture charge is calculated as: (Total Salary – Total Cap). It is divided evenly over the remaining years left on the contract. For example, here is the recapture that would be charged to the Rangers should Brad Richards retire after the 2016-17 season. His cap benefit recapture charge would be $5,666,666 over 3 seasons, calculated as follows:

Year Cap Hit Salary
2011-12 $6,666,667 $12,000,000
2012-13 $6,666,667 $12,000,000
2013-14 $6,666,667 $9,000,000
2014-15 $6,666,667 $8,500,000
2015-16 $6,666,667 $8,500,000
2016-17 $6,666,667 $7,000,000
Totals $40,000,002 $57,000,000
Cap Benefit $16,999,998
Over 3 Years $5,666,666

If a player is traded during the life of his contract and retires with a net cap benefit, both teams he played for during the contract will carry a recapture charge to the extent that the player’s salary exceeded the cap charge over the period he played there. Both teams will divide the total recapture charge over the number of years left on the contract.

Teams will not be charged for a cap benefit recapture if they traded the player before the previous CBA expired.


Buy-Outs: Cap hits arising from buy-outs are calculated by using a multi-step formula. The formula is shown below, using the example of Chris Drury’s buy-out in the summer of 2011:

A B C D E  F
Season Salary Cap Hit Buy-Out Amount C Over Twice Years Remaining Buy -Out Savings Buy-Out Cap Hit
A * (2/3) A – D B – E
2007-08 7,100,000 7,050,000
2008-09 7,100,000 7,050,000
2009-10 8,050,000 7,050,000
2010-11 8,000,000 7,050,000
2011-12 5,000,000 7,050,000 3,333,333 1,666,667 3,333,333 3,716,667
2011-13 1,666,667 (1,666,667) 1,666,667

That’s how his buy-out cap-hits of $3,716,667 for 2011-12 and $1,666,667 for 2012-13 were calculated.

Note that the buy-out amount (C) would be calculated using 1/3 instead of 2/3 if the player were 25 or younger at the date of the buy-out.

Step D, if there were multiple years left on the contract, would be the total of column C divided by twice the amount of years remaining.


No Movement and No Trade Clauses: No trade clauses (NTC) allow a player to block his team from trading him to another. No movement clauses (NMC) do the same as well as preventing the team from waiving or demoting the player. Players cannot receive a NTC/NMC in seasons they are not eligible to be a unrestricted free agent. If a team trades a player before his NTC/NMC kicks in or   the player waives his NTC/NMC to accommodate a trade, the new team is not restricted by the NTC/NMC unless they enter an agreement with the player to honor it. When a player signs an extension, a team can now give him a NTC/NMC  for the period before the extension kicks in provided the player is in his unrestricted free agent eligible years.



NHL/Accrued Season: An NHL season (or accrued season) is any season in which a player is on the NHL roster for 40 or more games (30 for a goaltender).

Professional Season: A professional season is any season in which:

  • A player aged 18 or 19 plays in 11 or more professional games, or;
  • a player aged 20 or plays in 1 or more professional games

Professional Game: A professional game includes any NHL regular season and playoff game, any minor league (AHL, ECHL) regular season and playoff game and games played in any European professional league, while signed to a standard player contract.