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Here’s How Ryan Ufko’s ELC Works And Why He Can Play In Milwaukee



Photo of Ryan Ufko courtesy of the University of Massachusetts Amherst

As non-NHL seasons come to an end, junior-league and NCAA players, like Ryan Ufko, are beginning to sign entry-level contracts with their drafting teams or the ones that hold their NHL rights.

The Nashville Predators signed Ufko, one of their top non-rostered players out of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst to a three-year ELC on Friday that will begin with the 2024-25 season, meaning his ELC will not be registered with the NHL until July 1, 2024.

In the interim, Ufko signed an amateur tryout deal with the Predators AHL affiliate the Milwaukee Admirals, per 102.5 The Game’s Nick Kieser, and he’ll report to the team immediately. Predators prospects Alex Campbell, who just finished his NCAA career with Northeastern, and Jeremy Hanzel, who wrapped up his final season in the WHL, did this exact thing on Thursday. Both made their Admirals debuts Friday night.

When a player signs an ELC, the Collective Bargaining Agreement dictates the term of the ELC based on the player’s age on Sept. 15 of the calendar year in which that player signed. The season does not matter, nor does the player’s age at the time of signing.

Ufko is currently 20 years old, but he’ll be 21 as of Sept. 15 of this year, thus he is considered 21 for purposes of the CBA. As detailed in the chart below, because Ufko will be 21, he had to sign a three-year ELC.

Additionally, due to Ufko’s age, he would not be eligible for what’s known as an ELC slide, which is available to those who sign an ELC at an age of either 18 or 19 that permits the NHL team to push that contract one year forward or “slide” if that player plays in less than 10 NHL games during the first year of that ELC.

For example,  Joakim Kemell, Nashville’s 2022 first-round pick, has qualified for an ELC slide because he signed at an age of 18 and has not played in any NHL games this season, the first of his ELC. This slide eligibility is an important tool to maintain the salary commensurate with an ELC for an additional year. 

Any player that signs an ELC for this season and is not slide eligible would “burn” that first season of their contract whether they play a game or not, which is why Ufko’s deal won’t begin until next season. There’s zero likelihood Ufko would play with the Predators this season because of the number of NHL defenseman already on their roster and the fact they are in a playoff race, so there’s no reason to waste a year on his ELC.

Follow Clay Brewer on Twitter/X: @ClayBrewer10

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