NHL Roster Size: NHL rosters can only include 23 active players. However, NHL teams are allowed to have 50 player contracts every season, which includes many of the players that play for the team's AHL affiliate. Players on AHL contracts or two-way AHL-ECHL contracts cannot be called up until they sign a conventional NHL player contract. These contracts can be executed either before or after their contract with the ECHL expires.
The number of contracts available in any given year will vary based on how many players are on injured reserve. If there are 25 players on IR, then 25 contracts will be open. Otherwise, if there are fewer than 25 players on IR, some of those remaining free agents will be re-signed by their previous teams. The other way in which roster size is limited is through the use of minor league players. A team's maximum roster size can never be greater than 50 players.
An NHL team's AHL affiliate is called its "farm team". There is one farm team for each NHL team, with the exception of the New York Rangers, who do not have a formal farm team but rather an agreement with the Hartford Wolf Pack to share players and staff. The farm team is responsible for developing young talent while the NHL team focuses on winning games.
In addition to its AHL farm team, a club may have several international hockey squads that it fields during the season. These clubs are known as "AHL Affiliates".
What is the average number of players on an NHL team? Each NHL club must carry a minimum of 20 players and a maximum of 23 players for the bulk of the regular season. After the NHL trade deadline and again during the playoffs, the number of roster places increases, as do special emergency allowances for injuries. The total number of players in the league at any one time therefore ranges from 200 to 230.
The current number of teams in the NHL is set at 30; however, if one of these teams were to fail its mandatory annual review with the NHL prior to the start of each season, then another team would be added to or removed from the league depending on whether the failed team was approved or denied by the other members of the Association. The last such expansion occurred in 1999, when the Nashville Predators joined the league. There are now only two teams that do not have a name yet, they're called the Philadelphia Flyers and the Washington Capitals.
In the context of the NHL, a "lineup" consists of the names of the players who will take the ice during a game. A coach chooses which players will play on each line before the start of the game. No more than three players may come off of the injured reserve list at once, and usually only one or two players are returned to IR during a given season.
There are currently 31 lines in the NHL.
Roster Restrictions Under the current NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement, organizations must handle four separate personnel limitations: a 20-player "dressed list" for games, a 23-player active NHL roster, a 50-contract maximum, and a 90-player maximum reserve list.
These restrictions were put in place to provide some degree of equity for teams that spend more money on players' salaries. If a team with greater financial resources wants to sign a player to a contract, they can do so as long as there is space available on one of the other three lists. If the team with greater resources also wants to send over a draft pick as part of the signing, they will need to include it within the first two rounds each year or lose out on the opportunity completely.
Teams that don't have the financial resources of their rivals can still manage their rosters in a similar way by trading or releasing players to make room. For example, if a team wants to bring in a player who is not signed yet, they only need to find a willing trade partner who will take one of their own players back in return.
In addition to these four lists, each team is allowed up to five "exempt" players who are free to be signed by other teams at any time. These players tend to be younger, less experienced players who can be had for little or no money compared to their contracted salary.
Since 2002-03, when it shifted its focus to become the NHL and AHL's principal developmental league, the ECHL has sent 486 players to the NHL. The ECHL sent 97 players to the NHL in its first ten seasons, and 215 in its first fifteen years. Two former ECHL players have been selected in the NHL Draft: Jakub Jerabek was selected seventh overall by the Colorado Avalanche in 2003, while Brad Malone was picked up by the Vancouver Canucks with the 138th pick of the 2005 draft.
The ECHL is not a major league but instead serves as an intermediate step between the American Hockey League and the National Hockey League. All 30 NHL teams have at least one player on their roster who is not under contract to another team; they are known as free agents. A total of 115 free agents signed contracts with ECHL teams during the 2012-13 season.
The ECHL allows its members to use their own coaches and managers, which provides greater control over player development than is available in the AHL. In addition, the ECHL offers more games and more revenue sharing with its clubs than does the AHL. These factors help explain why so many players from ECHL teams make their way up to the NHL.
In conclusion, the ECHL is the primary development league for the NHL.