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Contracts and How They Affect the AHL

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Sam Vigneault ready to take a faceoff against the San Jose Barracuda. (Photo Credit: John Saraya/Cleveland Monsters)
Cleveland Monsters/John Saraya

The AHL is made up of hundreds of players who have different types of contracts. Each contract provides a different function within the league. They also help with the growth and development in the NHL, AHL, ECHL, and Juniors.

You’ll be able to see a much bigger picture of how the AHL works with other leagues once you understand what each contract entails.

Standard Player Contract (SPC)

A Standard Player Contract is an AHL contract which is non-transferable to the NHL. It covers things like salary and playing status.

Monsters with an SPC: Miles Koules, Carter Camper, Hayden Hodgson, Joe Pendenza, Brad Thiessen, and Brett Gallant.

Professional Tryout Contract (PTO)

Players who have played or are currently playing professional hockey and are not under an NHL contract may sign a PTO with the AHL team of their choice.

A PTO is 25-games long. However, a player can be released before the 25 games are played. This can be for a multitude of reasons such as the injured player they were replacing is now healthy or they made their former leagues’ All-Star Game roster.

After the player has reached the 25-game maximum, they can sign a second PTO with the team or an SPC. Sometimes the parent club will be impressed by what they brought to the table and sign them to a two-way contract.

Monsters with a PTO: Brady Austin

Amateur Tryout Contract (ATO)

An Amateur Tryout Contract is usually given out towards the end of the season. It allows amateurs to experience the pros without losing their amateur status.

Hayden Hodgson signed an ATO with the Monsters at the end of last season. He was nearing the end of Juniors eligibility and was looking to turn pro.

Drafted prospects who are still eligible for Juniors can sign an ATO as well. It’s a great way to see how prospects are progressing and where they might fit within the organization.

Entry Level Contract (ELC)

Entry Level Contracts are the most common contracts you see on the AHL roster. Of the 24 players with the Cleveland Monsters, 10 are currently on an ELC with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

An ELC is a type of two-way contract given out at the NHL level. To receive a two-way contract you must be younger than 25-years old on September 15th and this must be the first NHL contract you sign.

If you have an ELC, you can bounce between the AHL and NHL without having to clear waivers.

Also, in the case of Kole Sherwood, a player with an ELC can also be reassigned to other leagues such as the OHL. Unfortunately, assigning a player to the OHL means they will not be able to come back until after their season is over. There are a few very rare cases where an OHL player is called up on an emergency basis.

Monsters with an ELC: Sam Vigneault, Tyler Motte, Matiss Kivlenieks, Ryan Collins, Jordan Maletta, Justin Scott, Paul Bittner, Doyle Somerby, Calvin Thurkauf, Blake Siebenaler, and Nick Moutrey.

One-Way Contract

A one-way contract is an NHL contract which focuses more on salary than anything.

There is a misconceived notion among many that if you have a one-way contract you are safe from being sent to the minors. If you think this or have thought it, you’re not alone. I, too, once thought this to be true.

A player holding a one-way contract can be assigned to the AHL. However, they must enter the waiver wire unless they are exempt from waivers.

A great example of this is Markus Hannikainen.

After Boone Jenner was activated off of injured reserve earlier this season, the Blue Jackets needed to clear up roster space. Hannikainen hadn’t played much in the first few games. So, he was sent down to the Monsters.

Many thought he would have to clear waivers before joining the team in Cleveland. Luckily, at the time, Hannikainen had only 17 NHL games under his belt and was able to bypass the waivers wire.

Since Hannikainen signed the one-way contract at 22 years of age, he is waivers exempt for three seasons of 70 NHL games.

Thanks to CapFriendly, you can see the breakdown of Hannikainen’s waiver exempt status.

Markus Hannikainen’s waiver exempt status.
CapFriendly.com

A player who holds a one-way contract will get paid the same salary regardless of if they are in the NHL or the AHL.

Two-Way Contract

A two-way contract is used is an NHL/AHL contract. This allows the higher league or parent club to assign a player to the lower league.

Downside; the salary between leagues are different.

Plus side; you don’t have to pass through waivers.

Here’s a fun little twist with the two-way contract. Your contract can start out as a two-way but it can become one-way.

Jordan Schroeder signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets in June. They added an NHL pact for a one-way in the 2018-19 season.

Monsters on two-way contracts: Andre Benoit, Dean Kukan, Jordan Schroeder, Cameron Gaunce, Alex Broadhurst, and John Ramage.

While the AHL doesn’t have a roster size limit, they can only dress 18 skaters and 2 goalies per game. If there are well over 20 players on the roster, there are going to be an awful lot of scratches night in and night out. We all know sitting more than playing can be detrimental to a growing prospect. Which is why finding the right mix of contracts for your team is important.

If you have too many two-ways or ELCs, you risk losing a big chunk of your roster when the injury bug hits the parent club.

A team needs a core of players who can help maintain a sense of structure and consistency with players.