Free Agent Flow Chart → If the image appears small or blury, be sure to magnify it.
When a player's contract expires, until they sign a new contract, they cannot play for any team (even if they still appear on a team's roster with 0 seasons left).
Players with 0 seasons left but who appear on a team's roster are said to be "in contact" with that team.
A free agent (FA) is either a restricted free agent (RFA) or an unrestricted free agent (UFA).
Every 3 days, a FA will drop their asking price ~10% unless they already dropped their asking price 3 times (i.e. after a player remains unsigned for more than 9 days, their asking price will no longer drop).
Every 30 days a FA will age, unike signed players who age at the end of a season.
UFA skaters and goalies retire after being unsigned for 33 days and 75 days, respectively.
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The salaries in the table above correspond to extensions for players who are making less than or equal to their salary minimum.
The only times players will accept offers lower than their salary minimum is:
1. They are an unsigned draft pick asking for more than $1M but are forced to sign a rookie contract ($1M/season for a max of 3 seasons).
2. They are a UFA asking for their salary minimum, in which case teams can offer 10% under the minimum. Ex: $6.75M instead of $7.5M
Players who make less than their salary minimum had their rating increase after signing their contract either through drills, the strength and conditioning coordinator, or a natural increase.
Restricted Free Agents:
An unsigned player under the age of 27 who was previously signed to a contract and has never had UFA status (could occur through a buyout) is a restricted free agent as long as they are not released by their team. If they are released, they become a UFA. Outside teams can make offers to RFAs, but if an offer sheet is signed, the team that owns the RFA's rights has 2 days to either match the offer (salary and seasons) or decline the offer. If the team matches the offer, they keep their player under the terms of the contract the player accepted with the outside team. If the team declines the offer, the player officially signs with the outside club, which then provides the old team with draft pick compensation in accordance to the player's rating. If the team that owns the RFA's rights neither matches or declines in the 2 days they are given to make their decision, they automatically decline.
If no team signs an RFA, that RFA will age every 30 days. Once they turn 27, the RFA will become a UFA.
RFAs are restricted because of the player loyalty factor and draft pick compensation.
Player loyalty factor: Team's trying to re-sign their RFAs only have to offer the arbitration salary (the minimum salary an RFA can accept for consideration) to get their player to consider re-signing, whereas outside teams have to offer the asking price (a salary 10% higher than the arbitration salary) to get an RFA to sign.
Draft Pick Compensation: If an outside team signs an RFA they have to provide the RFA's ex-team with draft picks in accordance to the RFA's rating. The draft pick compensation chart can be viewed at the top of the RFA listings in the free agent section. (Click "Free Agents" then click "Restricted Free Agents").
Unrestricted Free Agents:
An unsigned player 27 or older or an unsigned player who previously had UFA status (perhaps through a buyout) who was previously signed to a contract is an unrestricted free agent. Any team can offer UFAs a contract and sign them without having to provide any draft pick compensation.
UFAs always sign with the team offering them the best contract based on this formula:
Contract Attractiveness = Salary x [1 + (#Seasons - 1) x 0.05]
If a UFA's best contract offer is coming from multiple teams, then the UFA will sign with the team that gave the highest priority. If multiple teams also gave the same priority, the FA will sign with the team that offered first. Once a player is 39 years old or older, they will no longer accept multi-season contract offers. Once a player is 46 they will automatically retire.
When a team makes an offer to their own RFA, they can withdraw that offer as long as their player hasn't accepted it yet.
Once an RFA signs an offer sheet (which happens immediately when offered their asking price or higher), the offer cannot be withdrawn (it is irrevocable). However, if the RFA's team declines to match the offer and the outside team does not have enough cap space to officially sign the RFA, then the contract is dissolved.
Any offer to a UFA can be withdrawn as long as the player hasn't accepted it yet.
Extensions give you the ability to make an offer to one of your players before they hit the open market.
The rule of thumb for RFAs is, if you plan to keep them, offer them a contract through an extension instead of waiting until the off-season to do it. Often, RFA's will have a lower arbitration salary during the season than they will during the off-season. RFAs will re-sign early if they are offered a salary that is 30% higher than their listed arbitration salary with the new salary taking effect immediately.
Early re-signings can only occur while you're in a league. You can have an RFA re-sign with you at next reset any time a league is in progress (including playoffs) by offering them a salary 30% higher than arbitration value, but once the league ends, players take one day to field other offers.
RFAs will not ever re-sign at the reset when the league closes.
When RFAs re-sign at a salary 30% higher than arbitration value, the new salary takes effect right away. In effect, you're giving them a signing bonus which immediately counts against the cap and that's the price you pay to prevent them from becoming an RFA.
If an RFA is offered their arbitration salary via an extension, they will sign it 2 days into the off-season, even if their arbitration salary has since increased as long as no team beats the offer.
The advantage of offering UFAs extensions is that UFAs will sign with the team that offered first if two offers are tied (in contract acctractiveness and priority). There is also a player loyalty factor in being able to offer extensions to players. This is because players are often willing to consider extension offers involving a lower salary per season than they would demand on the open market. At any time, teams can always offer players with one season left on their contracts an extension involving a salary that is the higher of what the player is currently making or their arbitration value. Once the extension is made, the player is guaranteed to sign it unless another team beats the offer.
Example: A 65-rated player has one season left on their contract and is offered a 3-season extension at $400,000 per year in the middle of the season. If this player hits the rating of 70 before the season ends, the player will still sign the 3-season extension at 400,000 per year as long as no one beats that offer and despite the fact that their arbitration value is now $1,000,000 and that they would be asking for a lot more than $400,000/season on the open market.
While in a league, the last day to offer non-extension contracts is day 18. The last day a free agent can agree to be signed is day 20. Day 20 is also the last day for trades to be made until the off-season begins.