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Hockey School
the professor Free agency

What is it?:
On July 1, a player whose contract has expired becomes a free agent. However, that doesn’t mean he can sign anywhere. There are different levels of free agency with varying levels of freedom.

Group II free agent:
A player with three years of NHL service can accept a qualifying offer – a fancy term for a 10 percent raise – from his current team by June 30. If he gets the offer and turns it down, he becomes a restricted free agent. He can shop around, but the current club can match any offer he gets. If he doesn’t receive the qualifying offer, he becomes an unrestricted free agent and can sign anywhere. Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis could fall into this classification next month.

Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk can become an unrestricted (Group III) free agent after this season.
Group III free agent: A player 31 or older with at least four years of NHL service becomes an unrestricted free agent when his contract expires.
The current team has no right to match other offers. Tampa Bay’s Dave Andreychuk could fall into this classification.

Group IV free agent:
A player who has never had an NHL contract – even though his rights are held by an NHL team – who is playing for a nonaffiliated pro team, his freedom falls under the Group II regulations. It is classified differently because he’s not on a team’s payroll. This is a rare class. It usually features veterans from foreign leagues and draftees who did not sign with their original club.

Group V free agent:
A player with at least 10 pro seasons (minor league and NHL combined) who earned less than the average salary of the previous season can become an unrestricted free agent regardless of age.This is how Vinny Prospal left Tampa Bay to sign with Anaheim.

- Compiled by Tim Sullivan

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