NHL Salary Cap Topics > Key 20-21 Transition Rules

Key 20-21 Transition Rules

By PuckPedia

The NHL & NHLPA have tentatively agreed to the Transition Rules for the 20-21 season.  Here are some interesting aspects:

Key Dates

-The regular season will start Jan 13 and end May 8, meaning there are 116 days in the season (normally 186)

-RFA's must sign by Feb 11 to play this year (usually Dec 1)

-Players on 1-year contracts can sign extensions March 12 (usually Jan 1)

-Trade Deadline is April 12

-Expansion Protected lists submitted July 17

-Expansion Draft is July 21

-Entry Draft July 23-24

-Free Agency starts July 28

Impact of shorter season

In a normal 186 day season, each day of the season represents 0.54% (1/186). This year the season is 116 days, so each day represents 0.86% (1/116); each day is worth more towards the final cap hit.  Therefore, accruing cap space earlier in the year or by having a lower cap hit on non-game days allows for even more cap hit to be added later in the year than in a normal season.

For example, a $1M Cap Hit player in the minors or taxi squad for 30 days saves $259K of Cap Hit ($1M * 30/116). In a normal year, that player in the minors for 30 days would only save $161K ($1M * 30/186). This has an impact later in the year, like at the trade deadline.  This year, that $259K of saved cap space at the trade deadline (27 days remaining) is worth $1.1M in annual Cap Hit that can be added (116/27 * $259K). In a normal year, $161K of cap space at the trade deadline (41 days remaining) is worth $730K of Annual Cap Hit that can be added (186/41 * $161K).

For teams under the $81.5M Cap, this provides a big incentive to minimize the roster and Cap Hit as much as possible earlier in the year, as that cap space is worth more than normal later in the year. Between this and the taxi squad, expect teams to operate as close to the 20 minimum healthy players as possible, especially on off-days.  The exception would be if players do not want to risk losing a player on waivers by sending them to the taxi squad if they're waiver eligible. 

For teams in LTIR, they won't receive any benefit of accruing cap space since space does not accrue while in LTIR.

Taxi Squad

The taxi squad will have a minimum of 4 and maximum of 6 players. Taxi squad players are treated like being in the minors for purposes of waivers and salary cap.  If a player needs waivers to go to minors, they require waivers to be on the taxi squad. Just like the minors, the first $1.075M (burying threshold) of a player on the taxi squad does not count against the cap.

Goalies on Roster

All teams must either carry 2 Goalies on the Active Roster plus 1 on the Taxi Squad, or 3 on the Active Roster. This creates 31 more AHL goalie jobs than usual.

COVID & Roster/Cap

If a player is unfit to play due to COVID protocols (tests positive or is considered a close contact to a positive case), they can be designated as non-roster. This designation means they do not count towards 23 player active roster limit, but they do continue to count against salary cap. If a player is recalled and must quarantine, he counts towards the roster limit & salary cap during quarantine. 

If a player is traded for or claimed on waivers and must quarantine, during quarantine they can be Non-Roster; they don't count against the 23 player active roster limit but they do count against salary cap.


If a player tests positive for COVID, they are automatically eligible to be placed on Long Term Injured Reserve (LTIR) without any medical review or assessment. Normally, to go on LTIR a Doctor must do an examination and provide a long-term diagnosis.

The standard 10 game and 24 day time missed LTIR requirement remains, and the start date for this period begins from the positive COVID test result.

Emergency Roster Rules

Normally, if a team has less than 18 skaters and less than $800K (minimum salary of $700K + $100K) cap space to call up a player, they must play 1 game with less than 18 skaters, and then they can call up a player with a Cap Hit of $800K or less and are permitted to exceed the cap for that player until an injured player returns. For this year, those rules still apply, except the player called up can have a cap hit of $1M or less. 

However, if the team goes to less than 12 Forwards & 6 Defencemen available due to COVID and not enough cap space to call replacements up, they do not have to play 1 game with less than 18 skaters like normal. They can skip the 1 game with less than 18 skaters, and replace the missing Forwards or Defencemen with a player with a Cap Hit of $1M or less immediately.

If a team has less than 2 active healthy goalies and not enough cap space to recall 1 from taxi squad, they can activate the taxi squad goalie and exceed the salary cap.

If both goalies are hurt during a game, the taxi squad goalie can get dressed and enter the game. The taxi squad goalie would not have a cap hit charge in this situation.

Performance Bonuses

All performance bonus thresholds and amounts are pro-rated by 56/82.  For example, if an player has an entry level "A" performance bonus of $212,500 for scoring 20 Goals, this is pro-rated to $145,122 for scoring 14 Goals.  Therefore, all potential bonus amounts have been pro-rated by 56/82, likely reducing the amount of potential bonus carryover overages.

European Assignment

Teams are able to pay for a player's minor league salary while loaned to a European club.  This provides an incentive for European teams to take players if the NHL team is paying their salary.  This would not count towards the players' 50% share of revenue


Players who miss the last 41 games of the season or more, or have been determined to have a career-ending injury do not meet the expansion exposure requirements, unless approved by the league. Those players may be deemed "exempt from selection" by the League.

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