April 15th will go down in NHL history as Cale Makar became the first defensemen in league history to score a playoff goal in their NHL debut. His goal proved to be the game-winning goal for the Avalanche in Game 3 against the Calgary Flames. Makar has had a hectic last few days. Entering the weekend, he was a college sophomore and the number one rated prospect in all of hockey. So how did he go from NCAA standout to making history in the NHL within 48 hours?
The start of Makar’s whirlwind journey to making history started on Friday when Makar won the Hobey Baker Trophy as the best college hockey player this year—the hockey equivalent to the Heisman Trophy. The next day Makar competed in the NCAA National Championship Game as a member of UMass-Amherst. On Sunday Makar signed an NHL deal with the Colorado Avalanche and on Monday he played in his first NHL game.
Makes me question how productive my weekend was…
So how was Makar able to jump from the NCAA to the NHL? The answer is found by looking at the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
The Colorado Avalanche drafted Makar 4th overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, thus becoming part of the Colorado Avalanche “Reserve List.” Since Makar was playing for the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League and had committed to the University of Massachusetts–Amherst in 2015, the Avalanche would keep his rights until August 15 in Makar’s expected year of graduation from college.
The NHL CBA defines the reserve list as:
“Reserve List” means the list of all Players to whom a Club has rights including all Unsigned Draft Choices, all Players signed to an SPC (Standard Playing Contract) (whether or not currently playing in the NHL), and all Players who have signed an SPC but who have subsequently been returned to Juniors. A Club may have on its Reserve List, at any one time, not more than 90 Players, which shall include the following:
(a) Not more than 50 Players signed to an SPC and not less than 24 Players and 3 goalkeepers under an SPC. Age 18 and age 19 Players who were returned to Juniors, and who have not played 11 NHL Games in one season, shall be exempt from inclusion in the 50 Player limit.
Any Club violating this provision shall be liable to loss of draft choices as determined by the Commissioner.
(b) Unsigned Draft Choices.”
The ability to draft and hold the rights of college players is a crucial difference between the NHL and other professional Leagues. In the
The NHL and the NCAA have a very different agreement that allows a college player to be drafted. Once selected in the draft, the player is allowed to play for an NCAA program and not lose his eligibility. Assuming the player did not play in one of the Canadian Major Junior Leagues (OHL, WHL, QMJHL).
At the same time, the NHL club can list the player on their Reserve List, making them eligible for a call up to the NHL. Makar fell into the category of Unsigned Draft Choices for the Avalanche.
The NHL also limits the number of players (23) that can be on a team’s active roster from the end of the preseason to the NHL trade deadline. However, after the trade deadline passes, the 23 man roster limit is lifted. Therefore, any player, on the teams Reserve List and signed to an SPC will be eligible to play for a club in the playoffs.
Since Makar was on the Avalanche Reserve List as an Unsigned Draft Choice, the Avalanche were able to add him to the active roster when Makar signed his Entry Level Contract (ELC).
Once the UMass Minutemen lost in the NCAA National Championship game on Saturday, the Avalanche started the process of adding him to the active roster. The next morning, he signed an ELC, thus paving the way for him to join the team in their Stanley Cup Playoff campaign.
Similar to Nikita Gusev, who will join the Vegas Golden Knights in their game on April 16, Makar signed an ELC with the Avalanche worth $925,000 per year. The maximum signing bonus available on an entry-level deal is 10 percent of the entire contract. Therefore, Makar will receive a signing bonus of $92,500 for his service in the 2019 Playoffs. However, Makar will not receive the $925,000 for the 2018-19 season since he did not play in the regular season.
In Addition to the signing bonus, Makar will receive some money from the NHL for playing in the playoffs. In 2013, for example, the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks received $3.75 million from a CBA designated player pool of money. This works out to be an estimated $163,043 per player.
Makar lived up to expectations in his first game in the NHL, scoring the game-winning goal in game 3 against the Calgary Flames, his hometown team. The legend of Makar could be cemented in the first few months of his NHL career if he can help Avalanche make a long playoff run.