Dreger: NHL, NHLPA continue debate on call-up rule

Darren Dreger

3/1/2011 9:21:05 PM

Brian Burke was the first on Monday to raise the annual argument for abolishing the post-deadline rule that limits NHL teams to just four American Hockey League call-ups.

The rule only applies while the AHL affiliate team is in play and lifts as soon as their season ends, but it remains an ongoing concern for the National Hockey League.

Burke and the majority of NHL teams would happily promote their prospects for short-term duty after the trade deadline if the rule was elminated, while contending teams would utilize the flexibility to keep their roster filled.

Instead, aside from emergency recalls which are strictly policed but happen frequently,  teams burn a call-up for every AHL-NHL transaction made from this point on.

This rule was collectively bargained, however sources say the NHL has repeatedly asked the NHLPA to eliminate it, and further, the league has a letter of agreement from 2005, obliging the PA to negotiate in good faith, the removal of the 4-call up rule.

Sources say the Players' Association has been willing to negotiate an amendment, but only if the league agrees to a quid pro quo.

It's believed the NHLPA is concerned with its veteran players, perhaps losing ice time to call-ups late in the year, along with the optics for the fans who pay to watch NHL players.  Plus, there's an adverse financial effect players who are in the NHL at the deadline would feel if they were openly shuttled back and forth over the remainder of the season.

It's possible the issue will be revisited with newly appointed NHLPA executive director Don Fehr in the near future.  If not, the matter will become one of many items tackled in negotiations of the next CBA.