AHL Penguins Free Agents: Understanding "Restricted" vs. "Unrestricted" 6/6

Thursday, June 6, 2013
"Restricted" and "Unrestricted" are two words put in front of free agents that put available players for the upcoming season in two very different categories.

My best explanation? A restricted free agent is a typically younger player who has an expiring contract that was either his first professional contract (aka an entry-level deal) or a subsequent contract in which  a team submitted a qualifying offer (see below) to the player from the previous year.

Teams have until June 25th to submit what is called a qualifying offer to their restricted free agents to retain their rights or else they will be come unrestricted free agents and be free to sign with any team they choose when the NHL's free agency begins on July 5th.

A qualifying offer is a raise of 110% the player's salary from the previous season if he made under $660,000 (NHL-level) or a raise of at least 105% if he made up $1 million. Players making over a million must be offered 100%. Still with me?

What you should get out of all of this is that a team's restricted free agents have almost no bargaining chips in their stack. If a team qualifies their restricted free agent, they retain his rights through next season. It is only after June 25th and no qualifying offer, that a restricted free agent becomes unrestricted and is free to sign with any team who is interested in him.

Unrestricted free agents, on the other hand, are only exclusive to the team the played on last season until NHL free agency begins. They can reject any contract their team offers and opt to hit the market and field offers from other teams. Thus, it is a little more difficult to retain unrestricted free agents than it is a restricted free agent.

I hope all of that made sense. If you are interested in finding out more or have any specific questions, feel free to ask and I'll do my best to clear the air.

So without further ado, let's take a look at the WBS Penguins free agent list heading into this summer:
Restricted Free Agents (RFA)
Brian Gibbons, Alex Grant, Riley Holzapfel, Zach Sill, Paul Thompson and Keven Veilleux
Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA)
On NHL contracts: Phil Dupuis, Chad Kolarik, Warren Peters, Dylan Reese, Trevor Smith, Brad Thiessen
On AHL contracts: Chris Barton, Chris Collins, Scott Darling, Bobby Farnham, Peter Merth, Christiaan Minella, Joey Mormina, Derek Nesbitt and Cody Wild 
My take? Of the RFA's, I would expect all to be retained except for Veilleux for obvious reasons. Maybe Grant isn't retained, but I think that despite his unfortunate turnovers in the playoffs he'll be wearing a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins uniform next season. Go ahead, call me crazy.

The UFA's will be tough to re-sign. I think the Pens will let Dupuis, Reese and Thiessen walk and try to re-sign Peters, Smith and Kolarik. If I had to guess, I'd say Peters heads back to the Western Conference. Maybe Kolarik, who has family in Pennsylvania, will stay in the organization. But a lot can happen in the next few weeks so we will have to wait and see.

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Anonymous said...

A note on your dates for Qualifying Offer: CBA lists it as the later date of June 25th or the first Monday after the NHL Entry Draft. The Draft is on Sunday June 30th this year, so teams actually have until July 1st to make qualifying offers this year.

There is also a section that says that Qualifying Offers will automatically expire on July 15th, so if the qualifying offer was not signed within 2 weeks they would revert to UFAs at that point as one would if they were not tendered prior to free agency. However, the Club can get written consent from the NHL to extend the Offer to a later date. But even then, all outstanding contracts need to be signed by December 1st for the player to still qualify to play that season.

As for the specifics discussion on FAs, here are a few comments from a lowly amateur:
A few of the "AHL FAs" that are listed are also on the Nailer's Protected List. They currently have 27 names and have until the 15th to cut it down to a 20-man End of Season Roster, but they are the players that are likely for the Nailers to be trying to bring back next year. Barton, Darling, Farnham, Minella, Merth (Captain), and Wild.

The RFAs, I wouldn't be surprised to see Grant move on. He reminds me a lot of Lovejoy, offensive D, solid PP quarterback, but struggles in his own end. Lovejoy moved on the the NHL and made a career as a 7th D, and did really well once moving to Anaheim. I can picture Grant doing that with another Club.
I'm also not sure about Holzapfel, he was one of the best players this year, he may find a much more lucrative offer, or a chance to move up to the NHL, if he heads elsewhere.
I agree with the others though, I want Gibbons, Thompson, and Sill back. Veilleux sealed his fate in Wheeling this year.

The UFAs, I think Peters, Smith, and Kolarik are in the same boat as Holzapfel. They were good enough this year that they could very well get offers elsewhere that the Pens are just unwilling or unable to match. I want all of them back (and Holzapfel), but I'm not holding my breath.
Dupuis got injured, never really got to see whether he was worth it or not, so yeah, he probably walks. Thiessen, I definitely don't want to lose him, but as you and Bombulie said he plans to look elsewhere, and I hope him the best, especially if he moves on to the NHL.
I also disagree with you (and apparently Chirps from Center Ice) about Reese. I think the Pens will re-sign him and give him a shot to make the Club in his hometown Pittsburgh. They need a 7th NHL D for next year, so why not resign Reese and let him try for it. They had planned to give him a look in Camp this year before the lockout ruined everything, and he did get to play a few games mid-season. So sign him for another year, give him a shot, and if he doesn't make the NHL roster (who knows, maybe the resign one of Bortuzzo/Eaton/Murray too) then either trade or back to WBS.

The AHL free agents, I really hope Mormina is back. Can't imagine WBS without him, and he was an excellent Captain. And a few of them may be back in Wheeling, available for try-outs or mid-season signings if needed. All depends on how many of what position they happen to need when all is said and done.

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