The NHL has decided to allow AHL players to compete in the Olympics under the condition they only be released for the Pyeongchang Games in February.
In a memo sent to the 31 NHL teams this week, the league outlined AHL players can be loaned to national teams for the 2018 Olympic Games, but players in the AHL signed to two-way standard contracts will be prohibited from participating in the Olympics. The AHL-eligible players only can be made available between Feb. 5-26.
The Winter Olympics men's hockey tournament begins on Feb. 9 and concludes with the gold-medal final on Feb. 25.
This turn of events may not have much of an impact on Canada's roster. Hockey Canada is close to finalizing a series of exhibition games in Russia next month with a roster comprised of Canadian professionals playing in Europe.
Hopefuls will audition for Canada's management and coaching staff, set to be announced later this month, with the national team in tournaments in Sochi and St. Petersburg in August, and the Channel One Cup (formerly the Izvestia Tournament) in Moscow in mid-December.
Many of these same Canadian players will compete in the Spengler Cup in Davos, Switzerland over the Christmas holidays.
Main hurdle for AHLers
The main hurdle for AHLers cracking the Canadian Olympic roster is they will not be made available for this series of national team exhibition games.
"We would have to scout and see who is available and how they compare to the players available in Europe," a Hockey Canada source said. "The top guys would be of interest but we would need to be careful they could fit in that late in the process."
Three months ago, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman put an end to NHL players' participation in the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea because the International Olympic Committee refused to cover the travel, insurance and hospitality costs.
Hockey Canada chief executive officer Tom Renney confirmed on Tuesday evening he is close to finalizing an exhibition schedule of games that will see Olympic candidates first get together to play in the Sochi Hockey Open, Aug. 5-9, with early games against host HC Sochi and the Russian national team, and the Nikolai Puchkov Tournament in St. Petersburg, Aug. 14-17.
These tournaments are part of the Kontinental Hockey League's preseason schedule.
The Channel One Cup in Moscow in mid-December will feature national teams from Canada, Russia, Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden and South Korea.