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Who can sign 8-year deals in the NHL?

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More important is who can’t.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Ottawa Senators Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images

With free agency coming up very shortly, and a lot of talk about Zach Hyman’s potential future, it’s time to relearn the rules about signing eight-year SPCs.

The 2013 CBA, which is still in effect, capped new contracts at seven years. There was an exception written in for teams that wanted to give their own players — RFAs or UFAs — one more year.

(b) The following practices also shall not be permitted under this Agreement and may not be included in any SPC, nor otherwise agreed to by any Club, any person or any entity:

(iv) An SPC with a term of greater than seven (7) years, provided, however, that a Club may sign a Player to an SPC with a term of up to eight (8) years if that Player was on such Club’s Reserve List as of and since the most recent Trade Deadline. With respect to potential Unrestricted Free Agents only, the ability to re-sign a Player to an SPC of eight (8) years expires when the Player becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent. With respect to a Player who becomes a Group 2 Restricted Free Agent, a Club may sign such Player to an SPC with a term of up to eight (8) years provided such Player was on such Club’s Reserve List and/or Restricted Free Agent List as of and since the most recent Trade Deadline.

Article 50.8

The Reserve List includes unsigned drafted players, and any other unsigned player a team may have the exclusive signing rights to. All players who have to be signed to an ELC cannot get a longer term since ELC rules mandate the term of the contract. Any player who is due a contract as an RFA or UFA and was on the team signing them at the trade deadline can get an eight-year deal.

The Maple Leafs could sign Joseph Woll or Nick Foligno or Zach Hyman to an eight-year deal. They cannot acquire Dougie Hamilton in trade and then sign him to eight years.

For players whose contracts are running out — pending UFAs — this ability to sign eight-year deals expires at midnight before the opening of free agency. The Transition Rules for the 2020-2021 season make that explicit with this year’s unusual date:

July 27: Club’s ability to offer own potential UFA an eight (8) year SPC expires (11:59 p.m. New York Time)

There is only one exception to this rule, and that is Seattle’s special rights. From an ESPN rundown:

What are the rules regarding Seattle signing a free agent before the draft?

Kaplan: From Sunday to July 21, the Kraken have an exclusive negotiating window with any pending free agents not protected by the other 30 teams. If Seattle signs one of these players, it counts as their selection from that club. And if Seattle signs that player to a deal before free agency begins on July 28, then the Kraken can offer an eight-year max extension. After that, Seattle can only give out seven-year deals this summer.

This means that the Kraken can sign Zach Hyman to an eight-year deal, the Leafs can sign Zach Hyman to an eight-year deal, and they both have a deadline of midnight on July 27 to do that. The only way the Kraken can do that is if they sign Hyman as their selection from the Maple Leafs.

No one can trade for the signing rights and sign Hyman to an eight-year deal with the possible exception of Seattle, depending on how those rules about their rights to sign eight-year deals are written. Update: this has now been clarified that only deals the expansion team signs as their pick from a given team can be eight years.

The Memo of Understanding, signed in 2020, that extended the current CBA, amended this rule in one particular way:

CBA §50.8(b)(iv) shall be amended to provide that when a Club acquires a Player who is signed through the subsequent Trade Deadline, it can immediately sign him to an 8-year SPC without waiting until the subsequent Trade Deadline if otherwise permitted to do so under Section 50.5(f)

This means that if the Maple Leafs were to trade Morgan Rielly to any team at any time between now and the next trade deadline, the acquiring team could sign him to an eight-year extension right away. The Leafs can, of course, also extend Rielly now for eight-years.

The only way around this requirement that a player getting an eight-year extension cannot be an expired UFA, and they must have been on the signing team at the prior trade deadline (or signed through to the next one) is a sign and trade. The Maple Leafs could sign a valid SPC with Hyman today for eight-years and then make the trade to the team that wanted that deal done. To the best of anyone’s recollection, this has never happened in the NHL.

That’s who can and who cannot sign eight-year deals.

Cap Friendly has a list of all current players on contracts of eight years or longer (some deals that predate the 2013 CBA limits are still in effect). There are a surprising 56 names on the list with some very recent signings such as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Joel Eriksson Ek.