Teams can now discuss contract details with pending free agents during interview period

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The NHL will allow teams to discuss “general contract parameters” with pending restricted and unrestricted free agents from other franchises during the interview period this offseason, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo. (The interview period begins on June 25.)

Russo points out that there was some confusion about this key detail in the 2013 summer, with teams getting late notice regarding whether or not they could discuss “contract parameters” with pending free agents. Such confusion will almost certainly be avoided with this provision.

An unnamed agent read the memo (delivered to teams on Wednesday) to Russo, which reportedly included this note:

“Please be advised that clubs are permitted to discuss the potential interest in as well as general parameters of a potential future contractual relationship with another club’s pending RFA or UFA during the applicable interview periods. The clubs may not enter any agreements or make any binding offers, promises, … oral or written concerning the terms of a potential SPC (standard players contract) with another club’s pending RFA or UFA.”

While the league prohibits the two sides from reaching an actual contract – even verbally – there’s a chance this change could mean a busier first day of free agency. After all, a pending free agent could narrow his list of interesting destinations down considerably during the interview process. Teams could do the same when they realize that an intended target isn’t interested.

(Of course, having more teams in a “bidding war” could help a player drive up his price, so there’s always the possibility that the differences could end up being subtle.)

Much has been made about this being a weak free agent summer, but a change like this could at least make for a flashier first few day(s) of signings.