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How emergency recalls work, and how they’ll see the Canucks through their current roster crisis

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Photo credit:https://canucksarmy.com/news/what-canucks-opening-roster-means-cap-now-moving-forward
Stephan Roget
6 months ago
On Thursday, October 12, the Vancouver Canucks recalled forward Jack Studnicka from Abbotsford under emergency conditions, solving their injury-caused roster crisis for the time being.
Emergency recalls happen every year in the NHL, but they’re generally and widely misunderstood.
How long will Studnicka’s emergency recall last?
What does it cost the Canucks?
And why did they play down a forward in the season-opener against Edmonton if emergency recalls were a thing?
The answers to these, and all other questions, can be found buried deep within the 50th section of the NHL-NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Or, significantly more conveniently, they can be found within this article.
The rule itself is a little difficult to parse, but here it is in all its legal-text glory:
Roster Emergency Exception. In the event that (i) a Club has Payroll Room less than the sum of the Minimum Paragraph 1 NHL Salary and $100,000 (i.e., that Club’s Averaged Club Salary is greater than the Upper Limit minus the Minimum Paragraph 1 NHL Salary minus $100,000); (ii) a Player on such Club becomes unfit or unable to play (i.e., is injured, ill or disabled and unable to perform his duties as a hockey Player) or is suspended; (iii) such Club is unable to sign and/or Recall a Player with an Averaged Amount equal to the Minimum Paragraph 1 NHL Salary plus $100,000 under the Bona Fide Long-Term Injury/Illness Exception; (iv) as a result of such Player being unfit or unable to play or suspended and the Club having Payroll Room less than the sum of the Minimum Paragraph 1 NHL Salary and $100,000, the Club has fewer than eighteen (18) skaters and two (2) goalies (“18 and 2”) on its Playing Roster (pursuant to Section 16.4(c)); and (v) the Club played its previous game with fewer than 18 and 2 (a “Roster Emergency”), then such Club may, beginning with the second game and continuing with all subsequent games and without any charge to the Club’s Averaged Club Salary for the duration of such Roster Emergency, add to its Playing Roster the requisite number of “emergency replacement” Player(s), provided, however, that (i) each such Player may not have an Averaged Amount that is more than the then-applicable Minimum Paragraph 1 NHL Salary plus $100,000 (e.g., $625,000 in 2012-13); and (ii) each such Player may only remain on that Club’s Active Roster during the period of the “Roster Emergency.”
For those of you who speak legalese, congratulations.
For the rest of us, here’s what all this means.
NHL teams can perform an emergency recall if at any point they A) fall below either 18 healthy, game-available skaters or two healthy, game-available goaltenders on their active roster and B) have less than the league minimum salary plus $100,000 in available cap space.
For 2023/24, that amount is $875,000, but any amount would be relevant to the Vancouver Canucks, who currently have about $200K in space having swapped out Vasily Podkolzin for Akito Hirose.
In plain terms, the Canucks qualify for an emergency recall because they don’t have enough cap space to make a regular recall.
With all of Ilya Mikheyev, Carson Soucy, Teddy Blueger, and Guillaume Brisebois injured and unavailable for the home-opener (or, it sounds like, the road-opener in Edmonton), the Canucks definitely qualify for the “fewer than 18 healthy and available skaters” portion of the rule. But they knew heading into Wednesday’s game that that would be the case, and they still played with just 11 forwards and six D.
Why not make an emergency recall of Studnicka before Wednesday?
Easy. They couldn’t. The emergency recall rule has changed a little bit over the years, and it now specifies that a “roster emergency” is only official when a team has already “Club played its previous game with fewer than 18 and 2.”
What that means is that the Canucks had to play down a player first in order to be able to access their emergency recall. They did so against Edmonton because they didn’t have the cap space for a regular recall (what with those four aforementioned injurees all still counting against the cap), and when that game was over and they still didn’t have enough cap, only then did an emergency recall become possible.
Here’s the good news:
First and foremost, emergency recalls do not count against the salary cap. There’s some rules and regulations here, in that an emergency recall can only ever be a player whose cap hit falls below that (minimum+$100,000) threshold, or $875,000 for this season.
But so long as a player is on the books at that amount or less, they don’t actually hit the books for any amount for as long as their emergency recall lasts.
Studnicka, for the time being, is on the Canucks at a functional $0 cap hit. Don’t worry, he’s still getting paid and getting a per diem, as per the CBA.
The second bit of good news is that the answer to “how long will Studnicka’s emergency recall last?” is “as long as it needs to.” Emergency recalls are good until the “roster emergency” that necessitated them is over.
So, as soon as the Canucks have another healthy skater available, Studnicka will either have to start counting against the cap or be immediately reassigned to Abbotsford (without requiring waivers). Note that this is any healthy skater, so if Brisebois comes back first, Studnicka still has to go down and it’ll be Brisebois filling in as the 12th forward.
But, for the time being, the Canucks will have Studnicka on hand until they have 18 other healthy skaters available to them.
What happens if another injury occurs? That’s easy. That’s just considered a new roster emergency, and the process starts over again. If another player gets injured or ill or suspended before Studnicka’s emergency recall ends, the Canucks would again have to play a player down before accessing another recall, but then they’d be able to do so, and continue to do so as many times as possible. Which is hopefully not the case, obviously.
It’s worth going back to that $875,000 limit on emergency recalls, because it does have some implications for the Canucks specifically. What it means for them is that they will not be able to use an emergency recall on anyone with a cap hit higher than that.
Wondering why it was Studnicka who has recalled, and not Nils Åman? This is why. Åman’s cap hit for the 2023/24 season is $883,750, putting him above the emergency recall limit and thus rendering him ineligible. The same can be said for all of Podkolzin, Cole McWard, Filip Johansson, Linus Karlsson, Aidan McDonough, Nikita Tolopilo, and Jonathan Lekkerimäki.
Wait, Jonathan Lekkerimäki? Isn’t he over in Sweden?
An earlier section of the CBA, governing player loans, notes that “A Player on Loan to a club of any league affiliated with the League may be Recalled from such Loan under emergency conditions.”
This is why you sometimes see players recalled straight from the WHL on an emergency recall. Technically, they can come from any NHL-affiliated league, so long as the player is signed to an NHL contract.
So, the Canucks could use an emergency recall on the other Elias Pettersson in Sweden, or on Ty Young up in Prince George. They probably won’t, but they could. Just not Lekkerimäki, who has too large a cap hit.
It’s also worth noting that emergency recalls are not swappable. So, it’s Studnicka for this current “roster emergency” until said emergency is over, or until a new emergency emerges. No matter how Studnicka plays, he’s it for the time being.
And that’s pretty much it. But if there was ever an article in need of a “TL;DR,” it’s this one, so here’s a brief summary of the key points:
  • Emergency recalls can only happen after a team has already played down a player for a game AND when that team doesn’t have enough cap space for an ordinary recall.
  • Emergency recalls can be of any player signed to an NHL contract with a cap hit below $875,000 (for this season).
  • Emergency recalls do not count against the cap, and can be up for as long as the roster emergency lasts.
  • As soon as another skater on the roster becomes available, the emergency recalled player must be reassigned (or properly recalled).
  • Jack Studnicka, then, will be up on his emergency recall until one of Mikheyev, Blueger, Brisebois, or Soucy is ready to go. And for as long as that lasts, he won’t cost the Canucks a cent against their salary cap.
Any more questions? If so, this author is happy to answer them in the comment section!
Get your tickets for the CanucksArmy Kick-Off Party when we will all get together at Greta Bar YVR to watch the Canucks take on the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, October 14th! 

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