What Are Bridge Deals In Hockey And How Does it Work?

Players first sign their first contract after passing through the entry-level contracts. This process could take place even when players have their rights held with another club as they are still restricted free agents(RFA). And this is what bridge deals in the NHL talk about.

So, what is a bridge deal in hockey? Players signing a bridge deal refers to a contract they sign as a restricted free agent. These contracts usually last for about 2 years, but the player remains a restricted free agent at the end of the contract; meaning their rights are still held with their former team.

In this post, we will discuss all you need to know about the bridge deals in the NHL. 

How Does a bridge deal work in hockey?

A bridge contract is a short-term deal that pays the player less than he would earn with a long-term deal. The most common length of a bridge contract is two or three years. 

During that time, the player is expected to improve and increase his value, after which the team will reward him by giving him another new contract, but this one for more money and term. 

An example of this would be Carey Price’s new deal in 2018 where he signed an 8-year extension worth $84 million. He played on a 2-year extension worth $6.5 million before signing the big extension in 2018.

Bridge deals are typically used for players who are coming off their entry-level contracts, and have contributed to the team but have yet to prove they can be consistent contributors at the NHL level.

A bridge deal is a contract that a player and team agree on that typically falls between two and three years. Here are some vital rules that bridge deal must follow; 

  • Salary Cap; The NHL has a salary cap that each team must stay under. It is determined by the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA) before each season.
  • Entry-Level Contracts; Players coming off their entry-level deals will be restricted to free agents (RFAs) when those contracts expire. RFAs are players with less than seven years of NHL experience who can negotiate with any team for a new contract once their current deal expires, but if they sign an offer sheet from another team, their old club has seven days to match it or let them go in exchange for draft picks from the new team.
  • Arbitration; Arbitration is a process in which RFAs can have an impartial third party decide what they should be paid if there’s been no agreement on a fair contract between them and the teams they play for after July 1 of every year. After arbitration, both sides are bound by whatever decision is made, although some players have walked away from arbitration decisions rather than play for less money than they originally asked for.

See Also: What Is A Restricted Free Agent In NHL? 

Factors does team management consider before signing a bridge deal?

The NHL is a business, and for every team general manager, it’s important to understand the league’s salary cap structure. So before signing any contract, GMs must consider the following:

  • A player’s performance so far: management has to decide if they want to pay someone based on past performance or future potential
  • A team’s salary cap situation: how much money do you have available compared to other teams? If you’re $10 million over the cap limit, that might put some limits on what you can negotiate with this player.
  • A team’s contract obligations to other players: there are only so many resources available in a given year or two years. If your team has committed most of its money to star players already, it could be tough finding space for a long-term deal with this guy.
  • A team’s salary cap outlook for the next few years: more than anything else, a GM will think about their overall financial health. How does their balance sheet look? They need to make sure that signing this player won’t put them in a bad place down the road. The last thing they want is financial problems keeping them from being able to compete in future seasons.
  • The Player’s performance relative to teammates: teams would want to prioritize getting players on bridge deals if their current stars are declining. That is because team management doesn’t want one player taking up too much space while others are undervalued (or overvalued). 

What factors do players consider before signing a bridge deal?

What goes through a player’s mind when deciding whether or not to sign a bridge deal? 

Staying with a team they are comfortable with. This is probably the most important factor in deciding whether or not to leverage the market. 

You give yourself more time to prove your value to an organization and see if it’s the right fit for you. It may be the best place for you long term, but if a deal can’t be reached, there will be opportunities elsewhere.

If you perform well on your bridge deal, there are plenty of benefits that can come from it. You get another opportunity to test out the market and see what kind of money is available for players at your position and skill level across the league. 

If things work out well enough, you’ll have a chance at signing a long-term contract with your current organization or even another one around the league!

How Long Does A Bridge Deal Last In Hockey?

The length of bridge deals varies. Sometimes it’s two seasons and sometimes it’s three.

It depends on a variety of factors—what the player has done in his first contract, and what the team and player needs are. 

Also, the performance during the bridge deal is important for the long-term contract that will hopefully come after it. 

If a player has some great seasons while on his bridge deal, the team will want to secure him long-term to make sure they keep him around.

Are Bridge Deals A Good Idea?

Bridge deals are typically good for both teams and players

If you’re a young player, a bridge deal can be good for your career in several ways. 

First, it allows you to prove yourself (something particularly important if you are looking to get paid as a top player). 

Second, it gives you more negotiating leverage in the future because the organization will have more data on your performance and progress.

On the other hand, if you’re an NHL team, a bridge deal can mean saving money on players who may not prove that they belong in top-tier contracts (right now, at least!). 

It also buys an organization time to evaluate roster needs moving forward and make decisions about which players are worth investing in.

For example, A bridge contract would be a good option for a player coming from a good season. 

If the player manages to perform well in his next contract, he could get that raise.

Conclusion

A bridge deal is not a bad idea for both players and the team. The players can get a chance to sign a contract with another team after the entry-level contract. Teams can also balance their salary cap with these contracts. However, the players and teams are always mindful of the long-term possibilities of this deal. 

So, I believe you now know what bridge deals are in the NHL, and how they work.

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