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NHL Free Agents Explained

How the NHL free agent system works.


PITTSBURGH - OCTOBER 07: New logos are etched into the ice prior to the game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers at the Consol Energy Center on October 7, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Bruce Bennett / Getty Images
Here's an explanation of the rules on NHL free agents under the 2005 collective bargaining agreement.

Unrestricted NHL Free Agents

  • The 27-or-7 Benchmark

    Any player whose contract has expired can declare himself an unrestricted free agent if he is at least 27 years old or has at least seven years of service as an NHL player.

    Between 2005 and 2008, the age of unrestricted free agency declined from 31 to 27. More details here.

  • July 1

    The free agency period begins on the first day of July. At that point, an unrestricted free agent is free to negotiate and sign a contract with any NHL team.

  • Free Agent Interviews
    **new for 2013

    Unrestricted free agents may meet and interview with potential new teams from the day after the NHL Entry Draft (but not later than June 25) until June 30.

  • Seven-Year Maximum
    **new for 2013

    A term limit of seven years is set for contracts signed by unrestricted free agents.

  • No Compensation

    Teams losing unrestricted free agents do not receive any compensation.

    Under the collective agreement that existed prior to 2005, draft picks were awarded as compensation.

See also: Restricted Free Agents and Offer Sheets

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