Deadline Day

It’s March 1 this year.  And the time is important.  Officially all trades must be completed by 3 p.m. New York time.  What usually happens is that the “trade calls” you hear about on the deadline shows get backed up and there may be trades announced after that time.

In truth, teams can make any trade they like after the deadline, and it does sometimes happen.  The deadline is really for playoff eligibility in the NHL.  You must be a on the roster of the NHL team at the deadline to play in the playoffs for that team.


Once the deadline has passed, there are some ways a team may still call up players from the AHL.  From the NHL CBA:

(l) During the period following 3:00 p.m. New York time of the fortieth (40th) day immediately preceding the final day of the Regular Season, and continuing through and including the last day of the Regular Season, no Player may be Recalled from Loan to a club of any league affiliated with the NHL, except that:

(i) A Club may exercise four (4) regular Recalls from a club or clubs of any league affiliated with the NHL, of Player(s) listed on its own Reserve List.

(ii) Players may be Recalled under Article 13.12(m).  [emergency recall rules]

(iii) Players may be Recalled upon completion of the regular season and playoff schedule of the club to which they were Loaned.


It isn’t just trades and recalls that are affected, it’s movement of players back down to the minor leagues, as well.

This is the official section on loans after the deadline:

A Player may be Loaned to a club of any league affiliated with the League at any time up to 3:00 p.m. New York time of the fortieth (40th) day immediately preceding the final day of the Regular Season (the "Trade Deadline"). Following this period, no Player may be Loaned, except that:

(i) a Player who has been Recalled during such restricted period under Article 13.12(l), 13.12(m), or 13.12(n) may be Loaned back to the member club of the affiliated league from which they were Recalled;

(ii) a Player who is on the Bona-Fide Long-Term Injury/Illness Exception, or who has been unfit for 24 calendar days and ten (10) NHL Regular Season games, may be Loaned on a Bona-Fide Long-Term Injury/Illness Exception Conditioning Loan (with the Player's consent) pursuant to Section 13.9 above for a period not to exceed the longer of six (6) days and three (3) games (which Loan is not subject to any extension), provided, however, if the Player is not on the Bona-Fide Long Term Injury/Illness Exception, he cannot be Loaned while he is on Injured Reserve; and

(iii) a Player may be Loaned (with the Player's consent) provided such Player (a) was on Recall and was determined to be disabled as of the Trade Deadline, (b) is determined to be fit to play prior to such Loan, and (c) was on the Active Roster for less than twenty-five percent (25%) of the period from the beginning of the Regular Season up to and including the date on which he was determined to be disabled.


Deadline day affects AHL playoff eligibility, not just NHL playoffs.  An NHL-contracted player must be on the roster of the AHL team at the deadline to qualify for the AHL playoffs.  This rule does not affect players added to the AHL team via ATO, PTO or AHL contracts.

Put that together with the loan and recall rules, and deadline day is often a mess of paper transactions to put players on the right roster at the right time and preserve the team’s ability to move them later to suit their needs.

Leafs fans should expect to see Frederik Gauthier sent to the AHL, at least on paper.  The Leafs might chose to call up players, the so called “black aces” now to avoid having to use their four recalls on them later. Likely candidates for this treatment are Kasperi Kapanen and Brendan Leipsic, who were hurt and haven’t played, but suddenly seem better:

Of course this timing may be a total coincidence.

Roster Limits

To make all of this movement possible, deadline day is when the roster limit goes out the window.

16.4 Active Roster Size; Playing Roster.

(a) There shall be a maximum of twenty-three (23) Players on each Club's Active Roster at any one time, provided, however, that, on the date of each season's Trade Deadline, a Club's Active Roster may be increased to any number of Players the Club, in its discretion, so determines, subject to Article 50.

“On the date of” here effectively means midnight on February 28.  So for the Leafs, they need to have 23 players not on IR tonight, but after this game, they don’t need to worry.

The salary cap does not go out the window, nor do waiver rules, so teams still must follow those usual procedures.