What happens in the AHL: Forecasting how an NHL lockout would affect the Charlotte Checkers

If you’ve been following the national sports media lately, you’ve seen lots of talk of a potential lockout for the 2012-13 NHL season.  Last spring, I spent about six months at the negotiating table as a Union representative for my own CBA, so watching the much bigger profile NHL/NHLPA dealings has been pretty fascinating, and things are changing constantly.  Just today, the Detroit Red Wings announced that they were cancelling their Traverse City Prospects tournament, something eight NHL teams participated in, including the Carolina Hurricanes.

A number of people have asked me how the AHL will be affected should the NHL lock it’s players out, so I figured I’d try to do my best “in a nutshell” explanation.

First and foremost, there is NO risk of the AHL losing a year due to the NHL lockout.  The AHL has a separate CBA for their players with the PHPA (Professional Hockey Players Association), and that agreement doesn’t expire until August 31, 2014.  The PHPA has a brief synopsis of their CBA here, or you can pay to download the full version.

So if the NHL and the NHLPA can’t agree to a new CBA and the season (or part of it) is cancelled, what will happen to the AHL?

There’s a very good chance that teams like the Checkers will have extra players. Players on two-way contracts (Chris Terry, Zach Boychuk, Brett Bellemore, etc.) will still be obligated to play in the AHL even if the NHL locks the players out.  Some of the guys on the cusp of the being in the NHL full-time such as Bobby Sanguinetti, Drayson Bowman and Zac Dalpe will not have a spot to compete for in Raleigh, and will certainly end up playing in Charlotte.  An excess of players in Charlotte will in turn mean even more AHL-caliber guys will be playing for the ECHL Everblades.

Flat Checkers MJ and Murph found a baby bear on a recent trip to Banff on vacation with me.

While it’s possible that more veteran players could choose to play in the AHL, there are strict rules that limit the number of veteran players who are eligible to play in an AHL game.  (The current rule allows for five veterans out of 18 skaters, plus one “exempt” vet, which basically boils down to six veteran players).  Charlotte/Carolina currently has four guys on two-way contracts that qualifiy as AHL veterans: Nic Blanchard, Brett Sutter, Marc-Andre Gragnani and Jerome Samson.  This leaves room for a couple more vets, should there be any that want to sign an AHL contract for a year, but it’s unlikely that the Checkers will load up their roster with big-name NHL players.

During the last NHL lockout, Eric Staal played for the Hurricanes AHL team.  The previous season he’d been a rookie in Raleigh, but without an NHL to play for, he spent a year playing for the Lowell Lock Monsters.  The same could certainly happen to guys like Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk, who are both on entry-level contracts with the Hurricanes.

Honestly though, only time will tell as to what the team in Charlotte shapes up to be.  The good news is the Hurricanes organization is loaded with talent, and whether or not the NHL locks its players out, there WILL be hockey in Charlotte this fall.

Tune in tomorrow with a special report by the non-vacationing writers Tess and Haley on their thoughts regarding the new AHL schedule, which is to be released at 3 p.m. EST.


3 thoughts on “What happens in the AHL: Forecasting how an NHL lockout would affect the Charlotte Checkers

  1. What happens to the vet players that have to clear waivers. The rule is that they can be sent down 12 days before the first regular season game. Thus if the strike happens on the 15th there will be lots of players on two ways that will not even be able to play in the AHL. Due to new rules made in the CBA players on NHL contracts cant sign in the AHL.

    1. Sorry I’m just now replying! I’m not sure. I’ve read the CBA’s, and it’s unclear. It is my understanding there wouldn’t be waivers to clear because there wouldn’t be an NHL CBA. Other places have mentioned that waiver-exempt players would have to be loaned to the minor league teams prior to the expiration of the NHL CBA on September 15. The veterans will be a big question mark, but since teams are limited to the number of veterans they can have anyway, I haven’t dug as deeply into that situation as I should have.

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