Since it was announced that Filip Zadina was going to be recalled from the Grand Rapid Griffins to play some games with Detroit, everyone in the media, ourselves included, said that he could play 9 games without having to be protected in the Seattle expansion draft.
It turns out that statement is off by 1 game. The reason is because the NHL defines a professional season differently in different parts of the CBA. I mean, it’s the NHL. Of course they do.
Before I go further, playing more than 9 NHL games will still burn a year of his Entry Level Contract (ELC), so it’s hard to see Detroit playing him in a 10th game
The part that is clear is this, from the Capfriendly expansion draft FAQ (rules will be the same this time as last time)
All players who have accrued two or less professional seasons at the end of the 2016-17 season, as well as all unsigned draft choices appearing on the teams reserve list, will be exempt from the upcoming expansion draft.
The relevant question is how a professional season is defined. As mentioned above, the NHL defines a professional season differently in different sections of the CBA.
In 10.2.a.i.A, which covers the rules for Restricted Free Agents, it says this:
For the purposes of this Section 10.2(a), a Player aged 18 or 19 earns a year of professional experience by playing ten (10) or more NHL Games in a given NHL Season, and a Player aged 20 or older (or who turns 20 between September 16 and December 31 of the year in which he signs his first SPC) earns a year of professional experience by playing ten (10) or more Professional Games under an SPC in a given League Year.
In other sections of the CBA, such as in the definition for Group 5 free agents (10.1.b.i), as well as in the section governing waivers, a professional season is defined like this:
For the purposes of the foregoing, the term “professional season” shall: (A) for a Player aged 18 or 19, mean any season in which such Player plays in eleven (11) or more Professional Games (including NHL Regular Season and Playoff Games, minor league regular season and playoff games, and games played in any European professional league, while under an SPC), and (B) for a Player aged 20 or older, mean any season in which such Player plays in one or more Professional Games (including NHL Regular Season and Playoff Games, minor league regular season and playoff games, and games played in any European professional league, while under an SPC).
After Capfriendly mentioned that Quinn Hughes could play 10 games in the NHL without losing his expansion draft exemption, I reached out to them, which led to the above explanation.
Like I said in the headline, this is likely a moot point, since it doesn’t make sense for Detroit to lose a year of his ELC for one game.
At the same time, I’ve been saying that the 10th game will also cause him to be expansion draft eligible, and it turns out that isn’t true, so I thought it was worthwhile to clarify.