A mere 10 days after the Flyers selected Guelph Storm center Jett Luchanko with the 13th overall pick of the 2024 NHL Draft, the organization has signed their first-round selection to an entry-level contract. On the same day that the Flyers wrapped up their annual summertime Development Camp, Luchanko inked his first pro contract.

A quick refresher follows on how entry-level contracts work. Also called standard pro contracts or SPCs in the language of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the National Hockey League and the NHL Players Association, there are specific rules and limitations on the structure of an entry-level deal. 

These rules govern the length of the contract (determined by the player's age), the maximum base-salary, the allowable bonuses, the payment classification category and more.  Specific to Luchanko's contract, the following details are the keys for Flyers fans to understand his status over the next three to five years.

Three-year term: Luchanko, who will turn 18 on August 21, 2024, falls into the three-year category for contract term length. For salary cap and time-of-service purposes, the contract will either kick in after he plays 10 NHL games  (2024-25 and 2025-26 seasons) or when he turns 20 (2026-27 season).

Ineligible for the AHL: As a player who was drafted from the CHL-affiliated Ontario Hockey League, Luchanko falls under the CHL/AHL Age Rule. This means he is not eligible to be loaned to the American Hockey League's Lehigh Valley Phantoms (or any other AHL club) in 2024-25 or 2025-26. He must either be placed on the Flyers' NHL roster or be returned to Guelph in each of the next two seasons. CHL-affiliated players must be 20 years within the calendar year in order to be assigned to an AHL club.

Note: Once a player's junior season -- both regular season and playoffs -- is finished, he is eligible to join an AHL farm club for the remainder of that club's campaign. As such, it's possible that Luchanko could get into some late-season and Calder Cup playoff games for the Phantoms in 2024-24 and/or 2025-26. Luchanko would be exempt from waivers. 

Slide Rule applies: The "slide rule" applies to Luchanko for the 2024-25 and 2025-26 seasons. What this means: If he's returned to his OHL team before the 10-game threshold, the entire NHL contract year is deferred. In other words, if Luchanko plays in Guelph in 2024-25 and 2025-26, year one of his NHL contract for salary cap and contract term purposes would be the 2026-27 season. He'd also be eligible for the AHL that season.

Signing bonus: Whether he makes Philly's NHL roster or is loaned by to Guelph (or eventually, the Phantoms), Luchanko's signing bonus installments are his to keep. There's one annual installment apiece payable for the 2024-25, 2025-26, and 2026-27 seasons. For salary cap purposes, the player's signing bonus is folded into his cap hit beginning the season when his pro contract takes hold. 

Performance bonuses: Entry-level contracts are one of two types of NHL contracts -- the other applies to signing players over the age of 35 -- in which the player is eligible to earn performance-based bonuses at the NHL level in addition to his base salary and signing bonus. The CBA spells out the rules and maximums for entry-level salaries and bonuses. Performance bonuses are folded into the player's earnings at the end of the season. They don't count against in-season salary cap calculations but DO count toward the player's final cap hit for the year. 

Performance bonuses, if earned, are often considerably higher-paying than base salaries or signing bonuses or players while they are on their entry-level deals. 

It is common, especially for teams that are forced to use long-term injured reserve (LTIR) allowances to remain salary-cap compliant during the season, to run into problems when bonuses get paid out at the end of the season. Overages on the final cap spending are charged against the team's cap space available to be used for the next season. 

Two-way contract: All entry-level contracts, by  CBA rule, are two-way contracts, meaning that there's one pay rate if the player is in the NHL and a second-lower rate at the AHL level (once the player is age-eligible). This, of course, includes Luchanko's contract.

Restricted free agent: Upon the expiration of Luchanko's entry-level contract, he will become a first-time restricted free agent. The soonest this can occur would be July 1, 2027. The latest would be in the summer of 2029. He will not yet be eligible to file for salary arbitration when that time comes.

The mutual benefit of a rapid ELC signing: If and when Luchanko is loaned back to Guelph this season or next, he'll have his signing bonus installment(s) in his pocket, and the security of an NHL contract ready to kick in when he eventually graduates to the pro level.

For the Flyers, getting the deal with Luchanko done right after the bat following the 2024 Draft means that his services are secured for several years once he earns an NHL (or AHL) roster spot. ELCs are the most readily affordable portion of a player's career for salary cap planning purposes. 

What's next for Luchanko: It's not impossible that Luchanko could earn an NHL roster spot within the next two seasons.  Travis Konecny (drafted 24th overall in 2015) and Joel Farabee (selected 14th overall in 2018) each debuted in the NHL with the Flyers at age 19. Konecny played one additional junior year and Farabee played one NCAA season before they were NHL-ready players.

Most likely, however, Luchanko will need two more seasons of junior hockey. He's one of the youngest players in the 2024 Draft class, having been born just three weeks ahead of the minimum age cutoff for this year's Draft. He'll need to add more weight and strength to his frame, An excellent playmaker, Luchanko needs to work on his shooting to bolster the goal-scoring aspect of his game. A fine two-way center for a teenager, he's not yet ready to handle the matchup demands of playing against top NHL centers. However, he has the potential to accomplish all of the above in years to come.

In the shorter term, Luchanko has the opportunity to parlay his international success for Team Canada's Under-18 squad into a roster spot at the Under-20 (World Junior Championships) level. He is not a slam-dunk for the WJC in 2024-25, although it would also not be a shock if he made the team in his Draft-plus-one year. By the time of the 2025-26 WJC, he'd have a strong chance of making the national team and playing an all-situations role.

Luchanko is already a well-above average skater and playmaker with high-end ice vision. He had 33 power play points (30 assists) this past season with Guelph. Those totals could climb even higher before he turns pro, especially if Guelph adds more talent and better structure around him.

There's a bright future on the horizon for Luchanko. The entry-level contract he just signed is an exciting step along his journey but not the destination itself.