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JUNE FUEL BLOG: Offseason transactions - what do they all mean?

Thursday, June 30th
JUNE FUEL BLOG: Offseason transactions - what do they all mean?

Even in the offseason, you’ll see teams in the ECHL (East Coast Hockey League) post a variety of different press releases pertaining to their rosters. These transactions are part of procedures the league has in place to retain rights to and sign certain players. These offseason transactions can be pretty confusing to the average hockey fan, so we’re here to break down what all of It means.

PROTECTED LISTS

Usually when you hear “protected list” in a hockey context, you think of NHL teams that are protecting players from being taken in an expansion draft. In the ECHL world, the protected list, released by teams in early June, basically means teams have the exclusive ECHL negotiating rights to those players through June. There is no limit to how many players can be added to the protected list, so generally teams will “protect” every single player that they are able to.

A common question is: “How come we didn’t protect this guy that played in both the ECHL and AHL this season but not this other guy that did the same thing?”

INDY FUEL CONTEXT: On the Fuel’s protected list earlier this month, Riley McKay was not on the Indy Fuel’s protected list while Brent Gates was. While both played in both the ECHL and AHL throughout the 2021-22 season, Riley McKay started the season on an AHL contract with the Rockford IceHogs, while Brent Gates started the season on a Standard Player Contract in the ECHL with the Fuel and was later called up to the San Diego Gulls.

Per the league, here are the requirements that must be met to put a player on a team’s protected list:1. Signed an SPC in 2021-22 with the Member, and has not been traded or released, OR2. Signed an SPC in 2021-22, and was recalled to the NHL/AHL or IIHF team, and has not been traded or released, OR3. Had received a Qualifying Offer last summer for the current Season, DID NOT sign an SPC, and has not been traded or released, OR4. Has been suspended by the Member or League, and has not been traded or released, OR5. Signed an SPC on or after the first day of the 2021-22 Regular Season, then subsequently signed an NHL/AHL contract, and has not been traded or released, OR6. Has executed the ECHL Retirement Form, and has not been traded or released.

VIEW THE FUEL’S 2021-22 PROTECTED LIST

FUTURE CONSIDERATIONS TRADE DEADLINES

“Haha, that Future Considerations guy sure gets traded around a lot!” -Everyone on social media when a trade involving future considerations occurs.

When a trade is made involving future considerations, that means the team receiving the futures can select a player from the team they traded with later on. However, unlike the phone minutes of the early 2000s, these trade completions can NOT be rolled over. Teams with outstanding future considerations must complete those trades by a certain deadline. Any players dealt after the season by this deadline must come from a team’s protected list (see how it’s all starting to tie together?).

INDY FUEL CONTEXT: In December of 2021, we acquired defenseman Brycen Martin from the Maine Mariners for future considerations. Since we didn’t complete that trade in-season, we had to select a player from that Protected List to give them, which ended up being goaltender Michael Lackey.

VIEW THE FUEL’S 2021-22 FUTURE CONSIDERATION TRADE DEADLINE TRANSACTIONS

SEASON-ENDING ROSTERS

A team’s season-ending roster can include up to eligible 20 players. This season-ending roster retains the rights to qualified non-veterans for one year and all veterans (skaters with more than 260 pro games or goaltenders with more than 180 pro games) through August 1. Just like the protected list, players that were originally signed to an AHL contract for the 2021-22 season cannot be added to this roster. That means guys like Riley McKay, Chad Yetman, Cale Morris and Jacob LeGuerrier were ineligible to be added to the Fuel’s season-ending roster.

Per the league, here is who cannot be added to a team’s season-ending roster:Season-Ending Rosters may include up to 20 players. Season-Ending Rosters cannot include any players who did not sign an ECHL contract in 2021-22.

VIEW THE FUEL’S 2021-22 SEASON ENDING ROSTER

QUALIFYING OFFERS

Now for the biggest and most exciting off-season transaction of all, right behind signing players to contracts – qualifying offers. A qualifying offer is generally a procedural step for a team to retain a player’s rights and is the first step in contract negotiations, i.e. “Here is the first offer that we’re making you, you can accept or reject it.” If a player accepts a qualifying offer, it basically means a team holds their rights through June of next year. Oftentimes guys that are going to Europe or retiring are extended qualifying offers, so in the chance they do come back to the ECHL to play, the team that extended their qualifying offer has the rights to their contract. 

INDY FUEL CONTEXT: 2020-21 Fuel forward Matt Marcinew went to Europe to play for the 2021-22 season, but was extended a qualifying offer by the Fuel preceding the 2021-22 season ensuring if he were to return to the ECHL within the year, his rights would stay with us. Since he did not sign an ECHL contract in 2021-22, but was given a qualifying offer, that’s why he was on the Fuel’s protected list and NOT the season-ending roster.

Through June 30, teams can sign as many players as they want from their (we’ve come full circle now, folks) protected list or season-ending roster without it counting towards the eight-player qualifying offer threshold. Anyone who doesn’t sign by that deadline becomes a free agent. The exception to this rule, even if a qualifying offer is extended and accepted, are veteran players. Even if a veteran player is extended a qualifying offer, they become a free agent in August. 

Here is elaboration on qualifying offers per the league:Each team is entitled to reserve rights to a maximum of eight players from the list of 20 by extending a qualifying offer no later than 11:59 p.m. ET on June 30. Of the eight qualified players, no more than four can be veterans (260 regular season professional hockey games played as of the start of the 2022-23 Season). Players on open qualifying offers cannot be traded. Teams are not required to extend a qualifying offer to players who sign a contract prior to June 30.The qualifying offer must remain open for acceptance until 11:59 p.m. ET on July 16 at which time the qualifying offer becomes null and void and the team may sign the qualified player to any salary or may elect to take no further action. Teams that extend a valid qualifying offer to a non-veteran player shall retain the rights to that qualified player for one playing season.A team that extends a valid qualifying offer to a veteran player, or to a goaltender who has played more than 180 regular-season games, will retain the rights to that player until 11:59 p.m. ET on July 16. After July 16, if the veteran player or goaltender is not signed to a contract by the team, the veteran or goaltender shall be deemed a restricted free agent and shall be entitled to seek and secure offers of employment from other ECHL teams. Restricted free agents may not be traded. When a restricted free agent receives a contract offer from a team other than the team with the player’s rights and the restricted free agent wishes to accept the contract offer, the restricted free agent and the offering member must, within 24 hours, notify the ECHL, the team with the player’s rights and the Professional Hockey Players’ Association. The member with the player’s rights shall have seven days after the date it is notified to exercise its right to match the contract offer.If a restricted free agent is not signed to either an offer sheet or a contract by an ECHL team by 11:59 p.m. ET on August 1, the player shall be deemed an unrestricted free agent.

TL;DR - Teams have the rights to players from their protected lists or season-ending rosters and can sign them through June 30. If there are players from the protected lists or season-ending rosters a team wants to keep the rights to, but those players in question aren’t necessarily resigning, they can be extended qualifying offers, solidifying their contractual rights through June of next year.

Any qualifying offers the Fuel have extended will be announced later this week following the June 30 deadline.

Well everyone, that about covers it. You can take a breath now. If you’d like a nice, visual flow chart explaining how contracts and player rights work in the ECHL, @AZadarski on Twitter made one!

Hopefully now you understand this world a little better. Stay tuned to IndyFuelHockey.com and follow @IndyFuel on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay up-to-date on all the latest news and player signings!

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