It was suggested in a report on Saturday from Renaud Lavoie that the Montreal Canadiens were interested in re-signing Victor Bartley, and it's possible that this is because of a very specific American Hockey League (AHL) rule.
When Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin compiled his list of priorities for the off-season, there was a particular player that he needed to sign for the St. John's IceCaps: a "veteran exempt" player. This is the classification for players who have played over 260 professional hockey games, but fewer than 320.
In general the three player classifications in the AHL are as follows:
|Developmental Player||no more than 260|
|Veteran Exempt||btw 261 and 320|
|Veteran||more than 320|
This classification is assigned at the start of the year to each player, and is based on the total regular season games played in the National Hockey League, American Hockey League, and European Elite Leagues. ECHL games do not count towards this total.
For any given game, a team must present a lineup of at least 12 skaters (goalies do not count toward this requirement) who qualify as 'developmental players.' The remaining six spots can go to any combination of skaters with more experience, however one of those players must be 'veteran exempt.'
This system has been put in place to ensure that the AHL remains a developmental league, and that no team tries to stack their lineup with veterans and provide an unfair advantage. So, the IceCaps could ice 18 skaters who classify as developmental players, while the most experienced lineup allowable would be 12 developmental players, one veteran exempt skater, and five veterans.
This past season, the IceCaps carried four players of veteran exempt status at various times: Mark Barberio, Eric Neilson, Gabriel Dumont, and Bartley. Players who had reached veteran status included only Bud Holloway and John Scott, making the IceCaps a very young and inexperienced team, which Bergevin alluded to during his end-of-year press conference.
Barberio is expected to start this upcoming season in the NHL, Neilson is not likely to return, and Dumont, should he re-sign with the Canadiens, has surpassed the 320-game threshold and is no longer considered veteran exempt. In fact, the only player that could currently fill the role would be Max Friberg, who graduates to this classification for the start of the 2016-17 campaign. There are currently no veterans signed for next season, with Dumont and Holloway both currently heading for unrestricted free agency. It is uncertain what their future holds with the organization.
Let's be clear: Victor Bartley is not an NHL defenceman. However when building a veteran core for the IceCaps, the addition of Bartley would be a first step, and more by necessity than by design. He didn't fare that poorly when he was in St. John's this past season, playing on the first defensive pair with Morgan Ellis, scoring twice and adding two assists in 10 games. In his final four games with the IceCaps he wore an A on his jersey, and is a former captain for the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League, so he has potential at providing leadership to a young team; something that Bergevin values in his older players.
He should clear waivers rather easily when he gets assigned to the AHL at the start of the season, providing some backup in case Friberg gets claimed.
The IceCaps are already looking at 15 developmental players signed for next season, with another six restricted free agents (counting Andrighetto, Carr, and Matteau) that could also be added, so the team will once again be very young. Adding Bartley to the mix would benefit the team by adding some experience, leadership, and a very important classification should the team want to add more veterans this season.