Contractual milestones for Mikhail Sergachev

Outlining the considerations for keeping the young prospect up with the Montreal Canadiens.

Mikhail Sergachev beat the odds and started the season with the Montreal Canadiens. The first-round draft pick is looking good so far in his first three matches, visibly gaining in confidence the more he plays, though he still has yet to register a shot.

The team is quickly approaching a decision point on whether to keep him for the entire season or to return him back to the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League, where his junior rights reside.

First things first: AHL is Not an Option

As per the NHL’s agreement with the Canadian Hockey League, Sergachev is not eligible to play in the American Hockey League with the St. John’s IceCaps.

Although the AHL allows players as young as 18 years of age to join their ranks, if that player is drafted by an NHL team, then that player must be offered to his junior team if he doesn’t stay with the NHL club.

Only once a drafted player is rejected by his junior team, or turns 20 (i.e. completes his junior eligibility), can he then be loaned to the AHL afiliate.

As it is highly unlikely that the Spitfires would pass on re-adding Sergachev, especially in a season where they are hosting the Memorial Cup, don’t expect to see Sergachev in St. John’s any time soon.

The Montreal Canadiens have three important milestones to consider when determining whether to send him back or not.

10 Games Played: Contract year lost

Ten is the number of games that Sergachev needs to play in the NHL in order to burn the first year of his entry-level contract. So the Canadiens will have to make a decision after Sergachev plays nine games whether or not they feel the experience he’s getting at the NHL level is worth having him one year closer or restricted free agency.

If the Canadiens send him back to Windsor after nine games, the salary portion of the first year of the contract slides until the following season. He will still keep the signing bonus he was paid when he signed the deal, and the cap hit of the contract will be calculated from the remaining amount due him.

40 Games Active: One year closer to Unrestricted Free Agency

The NHL considers 40 games on an active NHL roster in one season to be an Accrued Season. He already has six games counting towards that total, even though he’s actually only played in three of them.

After seven such seasons, a player becomes eligible for UFA status, therefore Sergachev could become an Unrestricted Free Agent at the age of 25 — after seven seasons in the league — as opposed to the standard 27 years of age.

160 Games Played: Waiver eligible

Not that Sergachev projects to be the kind of player who bounces between the AHL and NHL, however another important milestone to keep in mind when deciding how long to keep him this season is that waiver eligibility kicks in at five seasons after signing a contract as an 18-year-old, or 160 games played (regular season and playoffs) in the NHL, whichever comes first.

In addition, should Sergachev play 11 games this season, waiver eligibility drops to three seasons (including this one) or 160 games, regardless of whether he plays another game in the NHL in that time.

With all the depth on defence, is there enough benefit to keeping Sergachev with the team this season to justify reaching one or more of these thresholds? This is a question that General Manager Marc Bergevin is probably pondering quite often these days.

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