As we slog through the deadest month of the year in terms of hockey news, it's a good time to review one of the most basic rules of the AHL roster: the veteran rule. Here's the leanguage that the AHL uses on its website to describe the rule.
Of the 18 skaters (not counting two goaltenders) that teams may dress for a regular-season game, at least 13 must be qualified as "development players." Of those 13, 12 must have played in 260 or fewer professional games (including AHL, NHL, IHL and European elite leagues), and one must have played in 320 or fewer professional games. All calculations for development status are based on regular-season totals as of the start of the season.If that's a little confusing, that's OK. Let's break it down.
Essentially, a hockey team is most usually made up of 12 forwards, 6 defensemen and 2 goalies. Goalies are exempt from the veteran rule. For the 18 remaining skaters, the veteran rule states that 12 of those players must have played fewer than 260 regular season pro games. Of the remaining 6, one of those must have played fewer than 320 regular season pro games. Of the remaining 5 at that point, there are no restrictions on how many games have been played. All measures are taken at the beginning of the season and don't change as the season goes on.
With 76 games in an AHL season, two-hundred and sixty games is enough to get through a player's initial three-year entry-level contract (ELC) without hitting the rule. In fact, fourth year players are generally exempt from the rule, having played at most 246 regular season games to that point (82 NHL games per season over 3 seasons).
The 320 games player rule was added in the 2007 PHPA CBA negotiation to allow one "tweener" player. Examples of these would be Travis Morin or Luke Gazdic in the 2013-14 season.
Here is a list of the most veteran players on the Texas Stars this season. You can see in the list that only four players expected to spend time with Texas this season will qualify as AHL veterans.
Included for completeness, here are the next few "most veteran" players. None of these players triggers the veteran rule, though.