Every year on July 1, there is a frenzy of National Hockey League teams signing unrestricted free agents (UFAs). The most prominent names on the open market frequently -- but not always -- get snapped up on the opening day of "free agency season."
With each successive day, the volume of signings decreases until it slows to a trickle.
The deeper into free agency season that it gets, the more the leverage shifts from a seller's market to a buyer's market. By late July and onward into training camp in September, most signings fall in the "bargain" category.
Here is a brief overview of how the process works for both unrestricted and restricted free agents, and the key dates involved:
June 23: The day after the conclusion of the NHL Entry Draft (June 21-22) marks the start of a pre-free agency period in which impending unrestricted free agents are permitted to meet and negotiate with teams other than their current club. Prior to that date, the current team holds exclusive negotiating rights. The open "free agent courting" period at the end of June was created as part of the CBA signed in 2013. Before then, a player's current team had to give permission for a UFA to talk contract with a new team prior to July 1.
The Flyers trade earlier this week that sent a 2019 fifth-round pick to the Winnipeg Jets for impending unrestricted free agent center Kevin Hayes transferred the exclusive negotiation window from Winnipeg to Philadelphia.