Hockey 101 – Defining Restricted and Unrestricted Free Agents

Posted on June 24, 2012 by


July 1, 2012 is the start of the NHL Free Agency period. This is when the unrestricted free agents from the NHL teams can negotiate and sign a contract with any NHL team. The Restricted free agent is under contract by a team and will become an unrestricted free agent when their contracts expire. Here is a quick explanation of both:

Unrestricted Free Agent – A player without a team. Must be at least 27 years old or 7 years in the NHL.

For example, Dustin Penner is an unrestricted free agent come July 1, 2012. We had him on contract for $4.25 million a season for two seasons ending this one. The Kings can now do nothing and Dustin Penner is no longer a King. He is unrestricted, a guy without a contract, so he needs to find one. If the Kings are interested in keeping Penner, they will approach him and offer him a contract and an amount and Penner stays a LA King. If they are not interested they let him walk. Also, many times a player is wanted by other teams. For example, if Penner was a huge wanted player, the Kings would try to get a contract signed by him BEFORE the July 1st start date where other teams could vie for him.

Kings Unrestricted free agents:

Colin Fraser ($825,000 last season)***(Kings signed Fraser to a 2 year $1.65-million contract Friday)
Scott Parse (($900,000 last season)
Dustin Penner ($4.25 million last season)
Jarret Stoll ($3.6 million last season)***(Kings signed Stoll to a three-year contract worth an average of $3.25 million per season on Friday)
Trent Hunter
Ethan Moreau ***(Moreau has left, he went to the Montreal Canadiens as scout)
Patrick Mullen
Jeff Zatkoff

Restricted Free Agent – A player who has completed their entry-level contracts, but is not yet 27 or does not have 7 years of  NHL service to qualify as unrestricted free agent. They become restricted free agents when their contracts expire.

For example, the Kings have Dwight King as a restricted free agent. He is not yet 27 or does he have 7 years in the NHL under his belt. But his contract with the Kings is done. So, basically the Kings need to extend his contract or let other teams give him an “offer”. The Kings have the first chance to match the “offer. If the player, King, rejects an offer from another team, he remains a restricted free agent. Restricted free agents must sign a contract by December 1, or they cannot play the rest of the season. Now, if Dwight King does not get a qualifying offer and the Kings do not extend a contract to him, Dwight King then becomes an unrestricted agent even though he is under 27 and does not have the 7 years NHL experience.

Kings Restricted free agents:

Dwight King ($591,667 last season)
Justin Azevedo
Andrew Campbell
Thomas Hickey
Ray Kaunisto
Stefan Legein
David Meckler
Jake Muzzin

***Note from Hammond’s site***

The Kings announced that they have sent qualifying offers to seven of their eight restricted free agents. Dwight King, Justin Azevedo, Andrew Campbell, Thomas Hickey, Stefan Legein, David Meckler and Jake Muzzin were sent offers. By doing so, the Kings signaled their intention to keep their rights. Should any of those players sign an offer sheet with a different team, the Kings would be able to match the offer or receive compensation. (It should be noted that reports indicate Azevedo might play in Finland next season.) By contrast, the Kings did not extend a qualifying offer to Ray Kaunisto, who will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

The Free agency period is always a fun time and for this season, I hope we keep all our players. The only one I would like to see go is Davis Drewiski. This is not because I don’t like him, I like him very much. I think he is a very good player and I also feel he has done his time sitting on the bench for the Kings. We have such a great team and great players waiting in the wings that Davis would just sit again all season. I think he is entitled to play for a team and spend time on the ice. There is not a place for him on the team right now but we have him signed for another year. Hopefully we can move him this free agent period in exchange for future draft pics, etc.

You can read more about the LA King’s roster here at LAkingsinsider.

You can also follow a really great Unrestricted free agent tracker through this free agency at TSN. It keeps all the trades and signings up to date. A lot of fun:

NHL Sortable UFA Tracker

Go Kings!

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