One of the smaller yet intriguing wrinkles of the most recent CBA was the introduction of a courting period before free agency officially begins. The July 1 FA frenzy had lost some of its steam so hopefully going to a system similar to the NBA's might help jumpstart the July 1 fun again.
However last summer, the first with the new rule in place, didn't result in more deals right away because nobody was very clear on what was and was not acceptable in the courting period. Contract talk was off the table leaving some to wonder what the point was.
So for this upcoming free-agency period, the NHL has clarified the rules in a memo obtained by the Star Tribune's Michael Russo; contract parameters can be discussed but nothing can be offered or promised and no agreements can be reached.
In the June 18 memo (read over the phone to me by an agent), the league states, "After discussions with a number of general managers, we have revised and hopefully clarified with regard to last summer the permissible parameters of player contract and communication during the applicable interview periods.
"Please be advised that clubs are permitted to discuss the potential interest in as well as general parameters of a potential future contractual relationship with another club's pending RFA or UFA during the applicable interview periods. The clubs may not enter any agreements or make any binding offers, promises, ... oral or written concerning the terms of a potential SPC (standard players contract) with another club's pending RFA or UFA."
Well it's a good thing that's been cleared because teams were operating under different beliefs as to the rules last summer in the inaugural run.
What is on the table now? Teams and players can share what they're looking for in deals but can't actually negotiate or present figures. The hope is that knowing what a player will be looking for in a free-agency deal, when the FA period does open on July 1, the initial part of negotiations will be taken care of already -- i.e., what everybody wants -- and the frenzy can return.
With the rules much more clear this time around, it's going to be interesting if anything does materially change from the outside or not but at least it adds a little more teeth to the courting period.