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NHL entry-level contract, explained: How much can rookies make on their first NHL deal?

Sporting News logo Sporting News 7/7/2022 Bryan Murphy

NHL free agency is just around the corner, but that may not be the first contracts of the offseason getting handed out. 

The 2022 NHL Draft is set to take place over two days, starting on Thursday, July 7. There will be over 200 players that will be drafted by the weekend. With that, some players will be getting signed to deals to immediately join their NHL clubs. 

Contracts in the NHL can be tricky, especially when it comes to the first ones given to rookies. Here's a closer look at the kind of deals that first-year players can sign.

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NHL entry-level contracts and salaries

Entry-level contracts (ELC) are not limited to just draft picks, but any player that's drafted is limited in the type of contract that they can sign.

Any player younger than 25 as of September 15 during the year of their first contract must sign an entry-level contract, according to CapFriendly. Every entry-level contract is a two-way deal and the maximum salary for a player that is drafted in 2022 is set at $925,000 annually. 


Gallery: 2022 Stanley Cup Final: Colorado Avalanche vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (USA TODAY)

With that said, entry-level contracts can include signing and performance bonuses, so the total a player makes can exceed $925,000 per year, but there are still limits to that. According to CapFriendly, signing bonuses may not exceed 10% of the contract’s total, and that is paid to players annually. Performance bonuses for entry-level contracts are paid by the team and count against the salary cap. Those bonuses can't exceed the maximum of $2.85 million.

The length of the ELC depends on the age of the player. Here is a breakdown of the contract length:

  • 18-21 years of age: 3 years
  • 22-23 years of age: 2 years
  • 24 years of age: 1 year

What is an NHL entry-level slide?

The NHL is different from other professional leagues in the fact that just because a player signs an entry-level contract, does not mean they are immediately playing for an organization. 

The NHL has what is called an "entry-level slide." If a player signs his entry-level contract and is either 18 or 19 years old before September 15 of the signing year and does not play 10 games in the NHL that season, their entry-level contract is extended by one year. 

There are some exceptions. If a player is 19 years old on September 15 of their signing year but turns 20 between September 16 and December 31, the contract does not slide. In addition, a player who is 18 on September 15 of their signing year may get to slide the contract for two years, unless they turn 19 between September 16 and December 31. Then it only slides for one year. 

An example of this took place last year with first-round picks Mason McTavish of the Ducks and William Eklund of the Sharks. Both started the NHL season with their respective clubs, but after playing nine games, each were sent back to their junior/European clubs so that way they did not burn a year off their entry-level contract. 

NHL mock draft 2022

Here are the latest projected picks for the 2022 NHL Draft from TSN's Bryan Murphy:

  • 1. Canadiens: Shane Wright, C, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
  • 2. Devils: Juraj Slafkovsky, LW, TPS (Liiga)
  • 3. Coyotes: Logan Cooley, C, USA U18 (USHL)
  • 4. Kraken: Simon Nemec, D, Nitra (Slovak Extraliga)
  • 5. Flyers: David Jiricek, D, Plzen (Czech Extraliga)
  • 6. Blue Jackets (from Blackhawks): Joakim Kemell, RW, JYP (Liiga)
  • 7. Senators: Matthew Savoie, C, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
  • 8. Red Wings: Jonathan Lekkerimäki, RW, Djurgårdens IF 20 (J20 Nationell)
  • 9. Sabres: Cutter Gauthier, LW, USA U18 (USHL)
  • 10. Ducks: Marco Kasper, C, Rögle (SHL)
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