How Does UFA Work in Russia?

“This is a big time,” cracks a bearded fellow as he leans over his sportbooks in front of the black and white Russian roulette table. “The last time I was here, the guys who used to come around and gamble all the time were all Russians. I thought that they must be making good money. Today, I see they’re all but out of business.”


“The next time you come around, and you see how many players are on UFA, you’ll be able to count on them,” continues the wise dealer. “And remember that UFA players can only be sent into the league after they have passed the point of earning the entry into their respective national professional leagues – the KHL, IIHF, NHL and the European Professional Leagues. Once a player becomes an eligible player for a team in the league, he is no longer a free agent. So, if you want to take advantage of some nice free agent deals and earn yourself a regular season hockey game or tournament experience, you better make sure you get your resume and application in before the deadline imposed by each league.”

But what about during the regular season? Aren’t the NHL and American Hockey League players considered UFA (unrestricted free agents) during the regular season? And aren’t they still subject to the league’s entry draft? Isn’t the whole point that a player becomes an unrestricted free agent during the regular season because he has fulfilled his contract (no entry draft)? And aren’t NHL teams allowed to bring their own players into the league once they become eligible?

Well, it seems that there are actually two schools of thought on this issue. The first school contends that UFA players are players who are still under contract for the entire year and therefore are still subject to the league’s entry draft rules. The second school contends that all players who have played less than one season in the league and who are not signed by other NHL teams are considered unrestricted free agents during the regular season. So, technically, they are still restricted free agents. So, if you are an eligible UFA and you want to sign with an NHL team, you better make sure you get into the league before the expiration of your contract!

So, what happens if a player becomes ineligible to sign with any team after one season? Well, according to the rules of the NHL, once a player is ineligible to sign with any club, he becomes a restricted player and his salary count will be decreased by 50 percent. In other words, he can only sign a one-year contract for the amount of money that would be designated as his salary if he were eligible to sign with another club. If he is eligible to sign with another team, his salary count will increase by that percentage until the year he signs a new contract. Now, if a player’s contract is still valid at the end of that season, he can sign a two or three year deal with another club.

Now, in terms of signing a contract in Russia, it really doesn’t get any more simple than that. You have to understand that the RFA (Reverse Effect) actually makes life easier for Russian players and coaches. Remember, if you want to sign in Russia, you better be Russian. Otherwise, you better be bilingual or fluent in Russian.