AHL players signed to minor league contracts will be eligible to compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics, reports Stephen Whyno of the Associated Press. The news clears up one question while opening others as the fallout continues from the NHL’s decision not to participate in the upcoming games in Pyeongchang.
A memo sent to the teams on Wednesday informed them that players on AHL contracts can be loaned to national teams in February “for the purposes of participating in the Pyeongchang Olympics,” as confirmed to Whyno by league president David Andrews.
The loan period announced by the AHL runs from Feb. 5-26. The Olympic men’s ice hockey tournament is set to begin Feb. 9, with the gold medal game scheduled for Feb. 25.
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly then confirmed to the Associated Press on August 7 that players on NHL contracts who are assigned to the AHL will not be able to participate in the upcoming Olympics.
Originally, a CBC report said that AHL players on two-way NHL contracts would be allowed to participate in the Olympics, but Daly denied that to Whyno. Now we know officially that both players on two-way NHL contracts or who ones who are loaned to the AHL cannot be chose for Olympic participation.
Players on one-way NHL contracts will not be allowed to participate in the Olympics barring an unexpected change in the league’s stance.
AHL players could help provide depth to the U.S. and Canadian national teams, which will lose most of their best options as a result of the NHL’s absence from the Olympics. The brief loan period will complicate matters, however, as players will not be able to participate in exhibitions if they conflict with their professional duties.
So if Team Canada wants, say, Rockford IceHogs defenseman and 2016 OHL defenseman of the year Darren Raddysh, who is on an AHL deal right now, it’ll have to hold that spot for him without having him play in any games with the team beforehand. The Blackhawks, Rockford’s NHL affiliate, could also sign Raddysh to an NHL deal before February, which would make him ineligible.
But as the U.S. and Canada try to ice competitive teams for the Olympics even without the NHL, they’ll need all the help they can get. We already know the Russian national team will be loaded with stars from the KHL, and Sweden can still mine the SHL for talent. For North America’s teams, AHL players on AHL contracts will be one option.
Update 8/7: Added new information on the NHL’s stance on two-way contracts.