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What exactly is an Unrestricted Free Agent?

by Missy Zielinski / Tampa Bay Lightning

As free agency begins Tuesday at noon for the Tampa Bay Lightning and the rest of the NHL, it’s time to tackle some of hockey’s trickiest topics. Today we uncover what exactly it means to be an Unrestricted Free Agent.

Age/Experience Level to Become Unrestricted Free Agent

Because the different categories of unrestricted free agents (UFA) can get complicated, the most common UFAs in the National Hockey League consist of any player who either has seven accruedprofessional seasons or is 27 years of age or older as of June 30.

Once players reach this age or have accrued seven seasons, they are completely free to negotiate and sign a standard player’s contract (SPC) with any club and any club is completely free to negotiate and sign a SPC with such a player.

Free Agent Interview Window

The latest collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA also added a new free agent interview window from June 25 to June 30. During this period, restricted free agents (RFAs) and UFAs can be contacted by teams to discuss general contract terms. However, no deal can be turned in or signed until Noon on July 1.

Lightning Examples to Consider

Netminder Anders Lindback was considered a restricted free agent heading into the offseason, but his status has since become that of an unrestricted free agent. The reason for the change? Since the Bolts did not hand Lindback a qualifying offer to negotiate a contract, he will now be able to talk to any NHL club Tuesday at noon.

The Lightning’s last draft pick this past weekend, Cameron Darcy, was in his last year of draft eligibility, so if he was not drafted by a team he would become an unrestricted free agent. That also means any club could have invited him to training camp. Since the Bolts drafted him, he is property of the Lightning and can only come to its camp.

Current UFAs on the Bolts

D Keith Aulie, F Tom Pyatt, D Sami Salo, D Brian Lee, D Mike Kostka, G Anders Lindback, G Cedrick Desjardins*, F P.C. Labrie*, F Mike Angelidis*, F Geoff Walker*, D Charles Landry*

Current RFAs on the Bolts

F Richard Panik^, D Andrej Sustr^, F Brett Connolly*^, F Cody Kunyk*^, D Dmitry Korobov*^, F Philippe Paradis*^

*Non-roster players
^Received qualifying offer by June 30

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