UND standout defenseman Paul LaDue is in a very unique position.
He is currently trying to decide whether to sign with the Los Angeles Kings (who drafted him in the sixth round in 2012) or return to UND for his junior season. His decision is different than most.
Because of his age, LaDue has the rare option of staying in college through his senior season and becoming an unrestricted free agent not bound by entry-level contract restrictions.
For starters, if a player stays four years, he becomes a free agent if not signed by Aug. 15 after their senior year.
More important in LaDue’s case: If a player is 25 years old as of Sept. 15 of the year they sign their contract, they are not considered an entry-level player. LaDue would be 24 when he graduates, but his birthday is Sept. 6, so according to the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, he would be considered 25 years old.
Entry-level deals are mandatory two-way contracts, which means you have different compensations based on whether you are playing in the NHL or AHL. As a 2012 draft pick, LaDue could make a maximum of $925,000 if in the NHL and $70,000 if in the AHL. The max signing bonus would be $92,500. Once he was through his entry-level deal, he would become a restricted free agent.
However, if LaDue plays college hockey through his senior season, he would be able to sign a one-way deal (same compensation, whether you are playing in the NHL or AHL) with any team for any compensation, any length and any signing bonus.
Off hand, I can only think of two college players who have used this clause to their advantage.
Bemidji State’s Matt Read (undrafted) waited until he turned 25. His first NHL contract was a one-way deal with a larger-than-usual signing bonus.
Boston University’s Matt Gilroy (undrafted) signed a two-year, $3.5 million one-way deal after turning 25.
Obviously, there are a lot of factors that will go into LaDue’s decision, but I believe he’s the first coveted NHL prospect at UND to have this option.