Did your heart drop reading the headline? I'm sure most of you think "they would be pretty stupid to not bring the kid who scored over 100 goals in two QMJHL seasons to start in the NHL." Or would they? Thanks to the CBA structuring, and Anthony Mantha's age, Big Tony's contract is "slide" eligible. What that means is that if he plays only nine NHL games this season, his entry level contract doesn't start until next season. Here it is from the horse's mouth:
If a player aged 18 or 19 signs an entry-level contract with a club (with his age calculated on Sept. 15 of the year he signed the contract) but does not play in at least 10 NHL games, the contract will "slide" or be extended one year. The extension does not apply if the player turns 20 between Sept. 16 and Dec. 31 in the year he signed the contract.
Depending on the contract's structure, the player's cap hit can be affected either by an increase or a decrease. Players who sign at age 18 can have their contract extended (or "slide") two seasons.
CBA reference: Section 9.1 (d) (P. 23-24)
OUTRAGE!!! Or is it? Even though it sucks for the player, the team essentially gets one year of pro-level development without cutting into the entry level contract. So, let's say Mantha ends up playing 11 games at the NHL level this season, that means his three-year ELC (entry level contract) would commence from the 2014-2015 season. Barring a complete meltdown on the wing, with injuries, and poor performance.. Why would the team say no to a bonafide free year of development for their number one blue-chip prospect?
As far as the CBA rule goes, he falls under this rule because he was born on the 16th of September and not the 15th of September. He signed his ELC in October of 2013 when he was 19 years old, but technically for the rule he was 18 years old. So, if Anthony was born one day earlier, this contract-slide eligibility would be void.
So there you have it.. He's 20 years old, but because of this little loophole in the CBA, he's 19 years old contractually-speaking. It's a confusing concept to wrap your noggin around, but in actuality it's a great deal for the organization. Instead of burning through a year on his contract, they can put off starting his ELC for another year. There are many bright sides to this: It gives him a year to get used to the pro-style play of hockey, and it also means that Tomas Jurco will have his shot at cracking the lineup, since Daniel Alfredsson is on the fence about his return. Since Mantha's games have to be limited to below 10, we could also see more of players like Teemu Pulkkinen, Colin Campbell, or Tomas Nosek. Of course, there is the chance that Detroit goes all-in and decides to burn the slide-eligibility. That would certainly be something I wouldn't expect from them, but anything is possible. They pulled the "slide" rule with Tomas Tatar, and he was tearing up the AHL from the get-go. So unless the team is ruined with injuries (possible, very possible), I think we might see Anthony for a maximum of nine games this season. For what it's worth, I think it's a pretty good deal for both parties. I'll save my outrage for when Anthony Mantha score 25 goals in preseason exhibition, I guess!
Also, I would like to extend a BIG, WARM, Winging it in Motown Happy Birthday to Anthony Mantha! He's 20 years old today. Go get 'em Big Tone!!!