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What's the difference between a one-way and a two-way contract?

by Missy Zielinski / Tampa Bay Lightning

After making a splash on July 1, free agency has cooled down slightly for the Tampa Bay Lightning and the rest of the NHL. However there’s a tricky topic to discuss in all of those contract signings – the difference between a one-way and two-way contract. Today we uncover what exactly the difference between the two is.


The common belief behind a one-way contract in the National Hockey League is that a player under a one-way contract is expected to solely play in the NHL. There is truth to this, as an organization expects its players on one-way contracts to be talented enough to play at the NHL level and they also do not want to be wasting NHL salary on a player not in the NHL. However, the main purpose of an NHL contract being one-way is so that a player is making one set amount of money, which is at least the NHL minimum salary, for the entire season.

As an example, blueliner Mark Barberio was signed to a one-year, one-way contract worth $874,125.If the Bolts wanted to send Barberio to the AHL and he managed to clear waivers, he would still make $874,125 with the Lightning’s AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch.


With a two-way contract there are two different salaries associated with a player and they are dependent on if he is on an organization’s NHL roster or AHL roster. This applies with newly signed Lightning forward Cody Kunyk. Kunyk was signed to a one-year, two-way deal, so if he plays with the Crunch, he will make a yearly salary of $70,000 and if he plays with the Bolts he will make a yearly salary of $874, 125. Keep in mind both these amounts are prorated, depending on how much time he spends where.

Waiver restrictions also come into play with two-way contracts, but differ by contract. Kunyk, who is on an entry-level contract, can move freely between the Crunch and the Lightning if need be because he has not yet reached the age or experience level where waiver restrictions apply. On the other hand, due to Brett Connolly's age/experience level, if he was on the Lightning and was being reassigned to Syracuse, he would have to clear waivers before being reassigned.

Some may remember that netminder Anders Lindback was reassigned to the Crunch this season and he is also a player who is waivers eligible. Yet the reason he did not have to clear waivers was because he was on a rehab assignment.


If there is an AHL player on a one-way contract in Syracuse and the Bolts wanted to call him up to the NHL, that player must first be signed to an NHL contract (most likely a two-way contract) before he can be permitted to do so. In addition, the Lightning would also have to determine if they had enough cap space and roster spots available in Tampa Bay to sign him to an NHL contract.

Click on these links to find out the difference between an unrestricted free agent and a restricted free agent .

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