Update: Unfortunately, Sportsnet's Jeff Marek reports some nuance here. The NHL-CHL agreement is tied to the NHL's collective bargaining agreement, and according to Marek, the CHL expects the AHL to honor the existing rules should there be a lockout at the NHL level -- thus keeping 18 and 19 year old players in the CHL.
That said, the agreement is still up this summer, so let's hope that the NHL makes it a point to try to rid themselves of this silly agreement with the CHL. We know the NHLPA would love to see this rule become a thing of the past.
Original post: The transfer agreement between the NHL and the Canadian Hockey League -- the body that oversees the OHL, QMJHL and WHL -- may have expired last month, and that would be phenomenal news for a Philadelphia Flyers organization that would love to expose its Major Junior-level talent to professional hockey sooner than later.
According to Dan Weiss, the play-by-play voice of the AHL's San Antonio Rampage, the agreement between the CHL and the NHL expired back in July. We've reached out to the NHL to confirm or deny this report but our request was not immediately returned. We'll update the second we hear back.
Under the arcane rule, when a player is drafted from a Major Junior club, they're only allowed to leave that club to play in the NHL. They can't play in the AHL or any other professional league until they're 20 years old -- or, typically, the age their CHL eligibility has gone. That's despite the fact that the AHL allows players 18 and over in their league.
This rule makes absolutely no sense for NHL teams. It makes no sense for the players. It only serves to benefit the OHL, QMJHL, WHL and their teams, and if the agreement has expired, the rule will be gone. That will be a very good thing.
Take Sean Couturier's situation with the Flyers last summer. Long before we knew that he would be a defensive stud in his first season as a professional, the debate around Couturier was whether or not he should crack the Flyers' roster or be sent back to his Major Junior club. There was no other option.
In Couturier's case, he made the NHL team and turned into a huge piece of the puzzle for the Flyers last season. It all worked out in the end.
For most players of his ilk, though, the answer doesn't lie in the NHL or in juniors. Largely, these players are not yet ready to jump from the junior ranks straight to the NHL, nor are they suited to return to a Major Junior league in which they utterly dominate their competition. Flyers prospects Nick Cousins or Scott Laughton may very well fall into this category this fall at training camp. The rules would allow them to play 10 games in the NHL before either going back to juniors or staying in the NHL, but 10 games is a pretty short evaluation period.
These types of players really are suited for the AHL. There, they can get used to the rigors of professional hockey against other grown men -- not teenagers like they'd otherwise dominate in Major Junior -- without the added pressures of NHL competition they are not ready for. But the rules prevent them from doing so, and it either forces NHL clubs to stagnate their growth or rush them along to the NHL too soon.
That's a lose-lose for everybody except the Major Junior clubs that continue to benefit from their talents.
NHL teams will applaud this. Agents will applaud this. Players will applaud this. The CHL and its teams will not be happy, if it's true. But ... well, too bad. It'll be a fantastic day when this rule is history, and hopefully that day has already come and gone.