The holiday season is here and a lightly-known wrinkle of the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement takes effect tonight:
Holiday Roster Freeze begins tonight at 11:59pm local— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) December 19, 2022
1. Applies to trades, loans, waivers
2. Ends Dec 28th 12:01am
3. Unless recalled after Dec 11th, or due to IR activation, players cannot be loaned to the minors
4. Recalls allowed (Teams can exceed 23 player limit)
In a nice move for players, you can’t be traded or sent to the minors at this time of year, a rare pause and some certainty.
What does it mean for the Penguins this year?
Not too much, aside from Drew O’Connor. If the Penguins don’t send O’Connor down today, he’s with Pittsburgh until at least 12/28. With Jason Zucker already back to skating in practice in a regular contact jersey today, that could be somewhat significant.
O’Connor is on a one-way contract which means he makes the same amount of money whether he plays in Wilkes-Barre or Pittsburgh. Financially that’s not a difference in earning a few extra bucks via the holiday freeze, but rather sticking on the NHL roster for a few more days would be assured for O’Connor, even if Pittsburgh gets healthier and he goes from being the 13th to 14th forward should Zucker make an expeditious return.
Much of the same thoughts above also applies to Mark Friedman, who is also on a one-way contract. A big difference however is the defender Friedman was called up to replace, Jeff Petry, has to remain on long term injured reserve until into January. Based on that it would be unlikely the Penguins would opt to send Friedman down in the next few days anyways even if they could.
Recalls going from Wilkes-Barre to Pittsburgh are still allowed during the holiday freeze, in case of any further future injuries to Pens’ players — though the new recalls would be sticking in the NHL until after the freeze if needed. The 23-player limit does not apply for now, which is a good thing because the Pens are at 23 at the moment.
Due to Petry’s placement on the LTIR, Pittsburgh has up to $4.725 million under their accruable cap space limit (aka the new upper limit of their salary cap while Petry is out) remaining. Meaning that the Pens have all the space they would need to call up further players during the holiday break or just until Petry is ready to be removed and back on the active roster.
Had Petry not been hurt and the Pens suffered an injury, the holiday freeze could have caused extra complications due to a lack of cap space and also no ability to trade or send down anyone in order to open up cap space if they needed an extra defender or forward with a hypothetical future injury.
Luckily for Pittsburgh, that is not the case. The NHL’s holiday roster freeze shouldn’t make too big of an impact. There won’t be any upcoming trades, but as NHL general managers have cited, the lack of cap space around the league has led to very limited avenues on that topic this year anyways.