Hockey 411: Roster Limits

Organizations have four different personnel limitations to manage under the current NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement: a 20-player “dressed list” for games, a 23-player active NHL roster, a 50-contract maximum, and a 90-player maximum reserve list.

Franchises are only allowed to have up to 90 players on the reserve list, meaning players that have signed a standard player contract (SPC) or unsigned draft choices. Teams are only permitted to have up to 50 players signed to contracts for any given season, including those for the players on the active roster, on loan and injured reserve lists.

What does that mean?

  • Kevin Hayes doesn’t have a professional contract with the Blackhawks (yet), so he’s part of the 90-player reserve list.
  • Cristobal Huet is still getting paid by the Blackhawks, but is on loan overseas. He still counts against the 50-contract limit until his paper expires this summer.

Other players may be signed to contracts but returned to their junior club. Those 18 and 19-year-old players assigned to their junior team in the CHL do not count against the 50-contract maximum until they have played at least 11 NHL games in one season. Those players do count against the 90-player reserve list, however.

Players assigned to their junior teams cannot be recalled until the completion of their team’s season unless it’s an emergency (which we won’t see in this era of the NHL).

What does this mean?

  • Mark McNeill and Brandon Saad cannot be recalled to Chicago until their junior seasons have ended.

According to Article 16 Section 4, the 23-man roster limit is in place from the conclusion of the preseason until 12:01 am on the day of the NHL’s Trade Deadline. After that teams are allowed to have an unlimited active roster at the NHL level, provided players are signed to one of their 50 contract slots (note: players assigned back to their junior clubs do not count towards the 50).

According to Article 13 Section 12 Subsection l:

During the period following 3:00 p.m. New York time of the fortieth (40th) day immediately preceding the final day of the Regular Season no Player may be Recalled from Loan to a club of any league affiliated with the NHL, except that:
(i) A Club may exercise four (4) recalls from a club or clubs of any league affiliated with the NHL, of Player(s) listed on its own Reserve List.
(ii) Players may be Recalled under Article 13.12(m).
(iii) Players may be Recalled upon completion of the regular season and playoff schedule of the club to which they were Loaned.

9 thoughts on “Hockey 411: Roster Limits

  1. Question: So what do the consider to be unlimited? Correct me if I’m wrong, So from the trade deadline to the start of the playoffs they can have a “unlimited” roster. But then when the playoffs start they only have can have four non emergency call ups. What’s confusing is if it’s already unlimited why is the four call up rule in placed?

  2. Josh – the roster isn’t capped at 23 after the deadline BUT the salary cap is still in play. Teams can have as many players on the roster AS THEY CAN AFFORD.

  3. Ok, So now that I understand that. What I’m not understanding is, from the trade deadline until the end of the regular season the roster it unlimited. But once in the playoffs they’re only allowed four non-emergency call ups. I’m confused on the simple fact that the cap is lifted in the playoffs. Wouldn’t it be the other way around?

  4. Or am I reading this wrong? In plan English, when does the four call up rule apply? From when to when, and when is the roster unlimited.

    I’m just not getting UNLIMITED and the FOUR call ups.

  5. I really want to understand this. I heard that they have unlimited recalls after trade deadline but are limited to only four recalls max on the Active Roster at once. So in all reality it’s not really unlimited. Also doesn’t the four recall rule only apply if you affiliate is in the playoffs? Read the second to last paragraph in this article
    It states something about only being allowed three recalls in playoffs unless you made four previously. Is that correct? Thank you for your patience.

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