News Blog: Ten-game mark means little for rookie contracts

Here we are, right around the 10-game mark of the season and there are so many questions. Where did all the time go? Wasn’t Dallas supposed to be better than this? Wasn’t St. Louis supposed to be worse? Mikko Koivu and Filip Kuba; who knew?

It’s also the time of year when fans and observers get all worked up because players who are barely old enough to shave are closing in on the 10-game mark, an absolutely crucial benchmark for 18- and 19-year-old players; one that will dictate the course of their NHL careers.

As a public service, would like to inform you of the following:

The 10-game threshold actually means a whole lot of diddlysquat when it comes to a teenager’s future. The fact his NHL team has decided to have him hit the 10-game threshold is of almost no consequence.

But there is so much misinformation out there many people are being led to believe 10 games marks the point of no return when it comes to dealing with teenagers. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Here’s the deal. Once a player plays his 10th game, it constitutes one season with respect to that player’s entry level contract. If he plays less than 10 NHL games, the contract “slides” and another year is added on. This will have an effect when it comes to the termination of the entry level deal and when the player will be eligible for arbitration, but has nothing to do with accrued seasons toward free agency.

A player only registers one season toward free agency when he is on the NHL roster for 40 games. For players entering the NHL this season, they will become eligible for unrestricted free agency either after they play seven seasons or reach the age of 27. That means if players such as Steven Stamkos, Drew Doughty, Alex Pietrangelo, Luke Schenn and others are on their teams’ rosters for 40 games this season – including games in which they are healthy scratches or injured – they will have banked one season towards unrestricted free agency.

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So, if your team has kept a junior player past the 10-game mark, don’t simply assume he’ll be there for the rest of the season with no turning back.

In fact, in a way it’s advantageous for the team to keep a player beyond the 10-game mark and lose that season off the entry-level deal, but send him back before the 40-game mark so they don’t lose a year on unrestricted free agency.

If the player plays 10 games, it means he’ll be eligible for arbitration one year earlier, meaning the team will have the option to take him to arbitration and, thus, have far more control over his future and be able to prevent teams from signing him to an offer sheet.

Also, many of the top players have performance bonuses built into their entry level deals, bonuses that will obviously never be reached – and therefore not paid – if the player only plays a dozen or so games. It’s also important to note that once the player is sent back to junior, his full salary and all bonuses come off the books and don’t count against the salary cap.

That should clear it up. You’re welcome.

 Ken Campbell is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.

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