Skip to the table of Leafs RFAs if the rules are old hat to you, and vote in the poll on who will be the first to be signed.
Once a player's Entry Level Contract runs out, he becomes a Restricted Free Agent (RFA). He stays an RFA as each contract expires until he's 27, or has played 7 years.
From the player's point of view he is much more restricted than he is free. Teams retain exclusive rights to negotiate a new contract with an RFA as long as they extend a qualifying offer by the deadline.
That deadline this year is 5pm New York time on June 27, 2016.
Of course, teams can sign players to extensions before that time—the Leafs have signed both Nazem Kadri and Morgan Rielly so far. Teams can make the qualifying offer at any time before the deadline, but if they don't cut a deal before that date, the process is a bit like a choose your own adventure game, with the team doing most of the choosing.
If a qualifying offer is never made, the player becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) on July 1, and can entertain any offers he likes. He can re-sign with his original team too, if they end up getting back together.
If a qualifying offer is made, the player has until July 1 to accept the offer or not. Accepting the offer is often referred to as signing his QO.
If the player accepts the offer, or negotiates a different but mutually satisfactory contract, he is then under contract to the team and no other team ever gets the right to talk to him.
If the player does not accept the offer, he remains an RFA and his rights are retained by the team.
A player, therefore, cannot choose free agency on his own, he has to be given that opportunity by the team. Which is the nicest possible spin on rejection. You weren't dumped on the other side of a closed door, you just get to jump out this open window instead!
But what constitutes a qualifying offer?
The answer to that depends on the existing contract.
Cap Friendly helpfully lays out the monetary restrictions on what makes a qualifying offer:
The qualifying offer is calculated from the players base salary (NHL salary minus signing bonus), and at minimum must meet the seasons minimum salary requirements:
- 110% of the base salary if the base salary is less than or equal to $660,000
- 105% of the base salary if the base salary is greater than $660,000 or less than $1,000,000. However, this qualifying offer cannot exceed $1,000,000.
- 100% of the base salary if the base salary is equal to or greater than $1,000,000.
- CBA Reference 10.2 (a) (ii)
They also explain when the offer must be a one-way deal. A one-way contract means the player is guaranteed that money regardless of where he plays, so no pay cut if he goes to the AHL. Teams often want players they think will not make the NHL, or not full time, on two-way contracts which pay much less while the player is in the AHL.
Just use CapFriendly's friendly calculator tool at the above link which also lists the rules for the calculations.
Both players and teams can elect to take an RFA player who qualifies to salary arbitration. P.K. Subban is one of the most famous cases where this happened. A player who thinks he is worth much more than his qualifying offer may elect to go this route if negotiations fail.
Teams may also choose to take a player to arbitration. Speculation is already rife that we will see Tyson Barrie heading to arbitration this year, likely at the request of his team.
The deadline to choose arbitration is July 5.
|Name||Position||Shoots||Age||Cap Hit||Current Contract Length||Arbitration Eligible||Qualifying Offer Base Amount|
|Scott Harrington||D||Left||22||$589,166||3 years||$575,000|
|Sam Carrick||C||Right||23||$600,000||1 year||Yes||$600,000|
|Colin Smith||C||Right||22||$628,333||3 years||$575,000|
|Frank Corrado||D||Right||22||$632,500||1 year||Yes||$632,500|
|Connor Carrick||D||Right||21||$636,666||3 years||$575,000|
|Garret Sparks||G||Left||22||$670,000||3 years||$600,000|
|Martin Marincin||D||Left||23||$700,000||1 year||Yes||$700,000|
|Peter Holland||C||Left||24||$775,000||2 years||Yes||$775,000|
|Josh Leivo||LW||Right||22||$792,500||3 years||$750,000|
|Stuart Percy||D||Left||22||$863,333||3 years||$832,500|