The Nature of Hockey Contracts

Over the course of a Monsters hockey season, fans hear all sorts of lingo regarding the different types of contracts to which players are signed. One-way, Two-way, PTO, and ATO become household terms, and the daily transaction listings across the hockey world don’t necessarily define what comes along with the aforementioned terms. Time for a little hockey contract 101, fully equipped with some examples from last season’s Monsters squad.

First up is the contract that all players aspire to attain: the one-way NHL contract. The difference between a one-way and two-way contract is commonly believed to be that a one-way deal brings a near 100-percent likelihood of a player being in the National Hockey League, and a player on a two-way contract can be sent up and down between the AHL and NHL all season; this is true to an extent. Really, a player on a one-way deal is making one set amount of money for a season, and it’s at least the NHL minimum salary. Occasionally, there are players in the AHL on one-way contracts, and a player on such a contract needs to pass through waivers to be assigned from an NHL club to its AHL affiliate.

As for the two-way NHL/AHL contract, this means there are two different amounts of money a player can make, and the financial figure attached to a player is determined by the league in which he’s playing. Obviously, a player on a two-way contract will make the greater amount of money if he’s in the NHL, compared to if he’s in the AHL or ECHL; a two-way contracted player can be assigned to the AHL or ECHL, and makes the same amount of money in either of the two minor leagues. Any player can sign a two-way contract, and all NHL entry-level contracts are two-way deals.

Waiver restrictions differ by contract, which is where the variables come into play regarding two-way deals. Players on entry-level deals with Colorado, such as defensemen Tyson Barrie and Stefan Elliott last season, can be shuttled up and down freely without having to pass through waivers. In the case of goalie Cedrick Desjardins, before he made his Monsters debut on October 30, 2011, fans may recall the Colorado Avalanche placing the netminder on waivers. Desjardins, who was not on an entry-level contract, had to pass through waivers to be assigned by Colorado to the Monsters.

Late in the season, defenseman Barry Goers and forward Peter MacArthur from the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers- which was not a Monsters affiliate- were signed to Professional Tryout Contracts, or PTO’s. Any player in a league classified below the AHL- such as the ECHL and Central Hockey League- who is not on an NHL contract, can be signed to a PTO by any AHL team. A PTO is a 25-game agreement, but a player can be released before he has played in 25 games. After a player has played in 25 games, he can be signed to a second PTO.

Again, AHL teams are not limited to their affiliates when it comes to finding reinforcements during the season. The Avalanche/Monsters affiliate in 2011-12 was the Central Hockey League’s Allen Americans, and the Avalanche have already agreed to an affiliation with the CHL’s Denver Cutthroats for this coming season.

Lastly, the Amateur Tryout Contract, or “ATO”, is a deal that fans often see employed several times late in the season; oftentimes for undrafted players finishing their college or junior careers (Such as Defensemen Karl Stollery and Aaron Gens in 2011-12), or drafted prospects who are still junior-eligible the next season (For example, Defenseman Duncan Siemens in 2011-12). ATO’s can be seen on the transaction listings in the NHL, AHL, and ECHL.


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