I actually touched on the topic of one-way versus two-way contracts in my very first CBA 101 article about waivers and re-entry waivers. However, when the Flyers signed Michael Leighton yesterday I saw Twitter abuzz with people who were appalled with the fact that he got a one-way contract (to be fair, there were also plenty of people that understood the distinction that I’m about to discuss as well). I thought I would specifically call out this topic as I frequently see it being misunderstood.
People tend to think that if a player signs a two-way contract, that that player can be shuffled to and from the American Hockey League at will. That is not correct. As stated in CBA 101 Part 1, waiver eligibility is determined strictly by when the contract was signed, and how many games that player has accumulated. The only thing a two-way contract does is simply define two different salaries for the player. One if they are in the National Hockey League, and one if they are in the AHL. Michael Leighton, in fact, had a one-way contract the past two seasons and yet spent that time in the AHL (for the most part).
The distinction is defined in the CBA with respect to Qualifying offers (and applies to Unrestriced Free Agents as well):
“One-Way Qualifying Offer” means a Qualifying Offer that provides for a Paragraph 1 NHL Salary regardless of whether such Player plays in the NHL or is Loaned.
“Two-Way Qualifying Offer” means a Qualifying Offer that provides for a Paragraph 1 NHL Salary to be effective when the Player is in the NHL, and a Paragraph 1 Minor League Salary to be effective when the Player is Loaned to a club outside the NHL.
So even if the Flyers were to have signed Leighton to a two-way contract, it would not have benefited the Flyers in any manner. Leighton would still need to clear waivers in order to be sent down (like he has done the past two years), and he would still need to clear re-entry waivers to be brought back up (like he has done the past two years).