Parsing the CBA: the Slide Rule

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There has been a certain degree of consternation among Maple Leafs fans of late regarding the number of SPCs (Standard Player Contracts) the team has on the books. Many have expressed concerns that the Maple Leafs are near the league maximum, and fear the situation could adversely affect the team’s efforts to continue to re-tool the club into a playoff contender.

A quick glance at the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), however, tells us the situation is not so dire as some would have us believe. The reason? A seldom-discussed clause, unofficially dubbed the “Slide Rule”.

In order to fully understand the Slide Rule and how it could in certain respects serve to alleviate the Maple Leafs‘ contract limit predicament, it is essential to first examine the NHL’s player limit regulations as stipulated in the CBA.

In Section 1 (“Definitions”) in the CBA, the limits on the number of player contracts, and number of players a team can hold rights for, are defined under the term “Reserve Lists”. A Reserve list is defined in Section 1 as

… the list of players to whom a Club has rights including all Unsigned Draft Choices, all Players signed to an SPC (whether or not currently playing in the NHL), and all Players who have signed an SPC but who have subsequently been returned to Juniors. A Club may have on its Reserve List, at any one
time, not more than 90 Players …

From this list of 90 players to which the club owns rights, a maximum of 50 and minimum of 24 may be signed to an SPC at any one time. Any team operating below the minimum or above the maximum limits is subject to a penalty of the loss of draft picks.

The 50-SPC limit is the number you most often read/hear about, as only those players with an SPC are eligible to play in the NHL.

Currently, the Maple Leafs‘ Reserve List contains a total of 49 SPCs.

Note: many have suggested the number is 48 following the signing of Marcel Mueller, but it is actually 49 as the Maple Leafs have extended a qualifying offer to RFA Christian Hanson. A qualifying offer is what allows a team to retain its negotiating rights to a player who has reached RFA status. Terms of the CBA dictate only unsigned draft choices (obviously) and players returned to Junior are exempt from the SPC limitation; therefore unsigned-but-qualified RFAs must be counted as part of the 50-SPC limit.

The Slide Rule

As alluded to in the definitions above, players signed to SPCs who are returned to Junior prior to playing 11 NHL games do not count towards a team’s SPC limit.  Instead, those players would  “slide” off the 50-SPC list while remaining on the larger 90-man Reserve List.

In the case of the Maple Leafs, both Jesse Blacker and Jamie Devane fall under this category (Nazim Kadri does not, as his Junior eligibility is up).  In the event that both Blacker and Devane are sent back to Junior prior to playing 11 NHL games, the Maple Leafs would free up two additional slots within the 50-SPC limit.

Current 50-SPC Reserve Lists for all NHL teams, including players subject to the Slide Rule, can be found at CapGeek.

Looking forward to your thoughts as always,