What are the NHL's roster rules after the trade deadline?
The trade deadline is set each year at 3 p.m. Eastern time on the 40th day immediately preceding the final day of the regular season. Following are rules that apply to NHL rosters on or after that date:
— The 23-man roster limit is lifted on the day of the trade deadline.
— The salary cap continues to apply until the final day of the regular season, but is lifted during the playoffs.
— Unrestricted free agents signed after the trade deadline, including those from the NCAA ranks, are not eligible to play in the NHL playoffs because they were not on the team’s 90-man reserve list on the day of the trade deadline. Example: Christian Folin with the Minnesota Wild in 2013-14.
— Unrestricted free agents who sign on or before the trade deadline, including those from the NCAA ranks, are eligible to play in the NHL playoffs because they are on the team's 90-man reserve list on the day of the trade deadline. Example: Danny DeKeyser with the Detroit Red Wings in 2012-13.
— Draft choices signed after the trade deadline are eligible to play in the playoffs because, by CBA definition, they were on the team's 90-man reserve list on the day of the trade deadline. Reports that such players must sign before the end of the regular season are incorrect. Example: Chris Kreider with the New York Rangers in 2011-12. Signed April 10, 2012, three days following the conclusion of the 2011-12 regular season on April 7, 2012. More Details: Via New York Post »
— Teams are limited to just four “regular” recalls after the NHL trade deadline through the end of the regular season. Not counting toward this total are “emergency” recalls made under emergency conditions, meaning the team’s roster has been reduced below the level of two goaltenders, six defensemen and 12 forwards. In the case of an emergency recall, the player can only remain with the team for the duration of the roster emergency, after which he must be immediately returned to the club from which he was recalled. Also not counting toward this total are recalls of loaned players (ie. players on the team’s 90-man reserve list who were assigned to a minor, junior or European league) whose regular season/playoff schedules have been completed.
— Following the conclusion of the NHL regular season, the recall limit is essentially lifted. However, a team is not permitted to have more than three players on its roster who were added by way of regular recall after the trade deadline and before the end of the regular season. Also, in the event that the team used four regular recalls between the trade deadline and the end of the season, it is permitted to retain those players on its roster following the conclusion of the regular season. Emergency recalls, explained earlier, are permitted, as are recalls of loaned players (ie. players on the team’s 90-man reserve list who were assigned to a minor, junior or European league) whose regular season/playoff schedules have been completed.
— For an NHL-contracted player to be eligible for the AHL playoffs, the player must be on the AHL roster as of 3 p.m. Eastern time on the day of the NHL trade deadline. Teams often demote players for one day on the trade deadline to secure their AHL playoff eligibility, and sometimes, these are paper transactions of which there is no public record (ie. not reported by media or on the AHL’s official website).
An exception to this rule applies to NHL-contracted players who are signed for the current season and were on loan (regardless of league) from the NHL team at the trade deadline. Example 1: Teuvo Teravainen signed an NHL entry-level contract with Chicago on Aug. 22, 2013, prior to the 2013-14 season, with 2013-14 as the first season. He was loaned to Jokerit of the Finnish SM-Liiga for the 2013-14 season and was not on Rockford’s AHL roster at the 2014 NHL trade deadline. However, because he was signed for 2013-14 and on loan at that time, he was eligible to join Rockford after his SM-Liiga season ended. Example 2: Andreas Athanasiou signed an NHL entry-level contract with Detroit on Nov. 15, 2013, after the 2013-14 season started, with 2013-14 as the first season. He was loaned to Barrie of the OHL for the 2013-14 season and was not on Grand Rapids’ AHL roster at the 2014 NHL trade deadline. However, because he was signed for 2013-14 and on loan at that time, he was eligible to join Grand Rapids after his OHL season ended. Example 3: Johnny Gaudreau signed an NHL entry-level contract with Calgary on April 11, 2014, with 2013-14 as the first season. He joined the Flames immediately. Because he was not signed, and thus not on loan, at the time of the 2014 NHL trade deadline on March 5, he was not eligible to suit up for Calgary’s AHL affiliate in Abbotsford in the playoffs.
In addition, an NHL-drafted player or free agent who has signed his first NHL contract effective starting the following season is eligible to play in the AHL playoffs on an amateur tryout contract. Example: Philadelphia Flyers draft choice Shayne Gostisbehere signed an NHL entry-level contract on April 15, 2014, with 2014-15 as the first season. Since Gostisbehere was not under contract for the 2013-14 season, he was eligible to sign an amateur tryout contract to play in the 2014 AHL playoffs with the Adirondack Phantoms. Had Gostisbehere’s contract started in 2013-14, he would have been eligible to play for the Flyers in the NHL post-season but could not have been assigned to the Phantoms, similar to Johnny Gaudreau in Example 3 above.
— Regarding long-term injured reserve, if fewer than 10 games remain in the regular season, a team can still place a player on LTIR, but the player is not eligible to return until the following season. Typically, a team would only exercise this option if the player is expected to miss the entire playoffs. If 10 or more games remain in the regular season but not 24 days, a team can still place a player on LTIR because the days requirement can extend into the playoffs. Example: This occurred in 2013-14 with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Evgeni Malkin. Injured in a March 23 contest with 11 games and 21 days left in the regular season, Malkin was placed on LTIR on March 24. He was able to return in the playoffs on April 16.
— Teams are technically permitted to make trades after the deadline. However, acquired players are not eligible for the NHL post-season. Historically, only minor trades have been completed prior to the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final.