|What the NHL CBA situation means for junior-eligible players||08.20.12 at 2:22 pm ET|
Here’s a minor detail that should get some more attention if the league and NHLPA don’t agree on a new CBA by Sept. 15: What happens to the younger players with junior eligibility?
The current agreement between the NHL and CHL states that players under the age of 20 that don’t make the NHL after the first nine games of the season have to be returned to their junior clubs (in the OHL, QMJHL and WHL) for the rest of the season. Those players are not eligible to play in the AHL.
Once a player goes to their junior league for the season, they can’t go the NHL in that season. This raises questions over what would happen if the NHL season started late.
Because the 2004-05 season was cancelled entirely and the following season started on time, there was no precedent set during the last lockout for NHL-ready players starting the season with their junior clubs and then going to the NHL when the season started. There isn’t a rule in place to cover such a scenario, so an amendment to the NHL and CHL’s transfer agreement — which recently expired, making this all the more confusing — would be required.
Per a league source, teams are still waiting to be advised on which players will be allowed to play in the AHL should there be a lockout. The source assumed that the potential amendment of CHL/NHL eligibility would also be discussed at that time.
In the 2004-05 season, all NHL players (meaning players who had played in the NHL, not NHL-ready prospects) under the age of 22 were allowed to play in the AHL. Patrice Bergeron — who had played the previous season in Boston — was among them, and in this case a player like Tyler Seguin would be allowed to play in the AHL since he is 20 years old.
The question for the Bruins, as touched upon in Sunday’s column, is what would happen with 19-year-old Dougie Hamilton. He’s expected to make the Bruins out of training camp this season, but if he starts the season in the OHL with the Niagara IceDogs, the NHL and CHL would need to amend the transfer agreement to allow players in his situation to go to the NHL. It would be hard to imagine the CHL drawing a hard line and not allowing players to leave, as their relationship with the NHL has prevented them from losing young stars (such as a Hamilton last year) to the AHL during normal seasons.
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