Anthony Mantha will be expansion draft eligible and here’s why

How changing five words can make a huge impact

Back in June, we wrote that Anthony Mantha should not be eligible for next year’s NHL expansion draft based on a complex and unique set of CBA definitions in regards to his age and professional experience. You can read the whole thing here, but the tl;dr version is that the 62 games Mantha played in Grand Rapids in 2014-15 don’t count as a year of professional experience by CBA definitions.

Unfortunately, we learned today that the CBA definitions are apparently being used as a guideline for a different decision.

Click to enlarge and read the entire piece, but you’ll see that Anthony Mantha is listed specifically as a player who gets caught up in the change.

So What is the Difference?

There’s a key, but very minor wording change at play in the embedded reasoning:

A player aged 20 or older (based on age on December 31 of calendar year in which the season starts) earns a year of professional experience by playing 10 or more Professional Games under an SPC in a given League year.

I’ve added emphasis here because that is the entire key.  You see CBA section 10.2 referenced above, but what was written is not in line with that section, which reads:

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

You see the difference in bolding? That’s the difference being used to make Mantha eligible for the expansion draft.

Anthony Mantha turned 20 years old on September 16th of 2014 (the year in which the 2014-15 season started) and played more than 10 professional games under his SPC. However, he signed his first SPC in 2013. Under the wording of 10.2, he signed his SPC in a year in which he turned 19 years old between September 15 and December 31. His contract slid that year while he was still in juniors and, according to free agency rules, the 2014-15 season does not count as a year of professional experience in terms of getting Mantha qualified to be a UFA.

So This is Illegal?

The thing here is that this is completely allowed because expansion draft eligibility is not something that’s specifically laid out in the CBA. The NHL and NHLPA may use CBA definitions as guidance for how to decide these things, but unless the NHLPA has a specific problem with changing five words in a definition, this is perfectly allowable.

From this author’s opinion, I don’t see why the NHLPA would fight to make the eight players affected by this change exempt, since the possibility that they would be grabbed on an expansion draft by a new team might honestly help them earn more playing time and money on their follow-up deals.

The draft is still almost a year away and things can change quickly, but for the time being, we should all be working off the assumption that Anthony Mantha will not be exempt from the expansion draft, despite not having earned a year of professional experience towards him being able to earn UFA status in the 2014-15 season.