Hockey Jargon

Navigating NHL Rosters: From Reserved List to Taxi Squads

Title: Understanding NHL Roster Limits and the Importance of FlexibilityThe National Hockey League (NHL) is a fast-paced and thrilling sport where teams rely on a carefully constructed roster of skilled players to achieve success. From the number of players allowed on the roster to the flexibility required to navigate salary caps and handle emergencies, this article aims to provide an in-depth understanding of NHL roster limits and the reasons behind them.

1) NHL Roster Limits:

1.1 Maximum Number of Players on Roster: 23 Players

In the NHL, each team is permitted to have a maximum of 23 players on their roster. This includes both skaters and goaltenders.

The primary purpose of this limit is to ensure fairness and competitive balance across all teams. It prevents teams from stockpiling an excessive number of players, ensuring that talent is more evenly distributed throughout the league.

With a cap of 23 players, NHL teams must carefully evaluate and select the right combination of skills, experience, and potential to optimize their roster for each game. This requirement demands tremendous strategic thinking from team management, as they must strike a balance between offensive, defensive, and goaltending prowess.

1.2 Minimum Number of Players on Roster: 20 Players

In contrast to the maximum limit, the NHL also imposes a minimum requirement of 20 players on the roster. This ensures that teams have enough depth to handle injuries or in-game situations where substitutions are necessary.

While injuries are an unfortunate aspect of the sport, they are bound to occur, and the minimum roster size helps address these emergencies effectively. 2) Expansion of Roster Spots After Trade Deadline and in Playoffs:

As the NHL trade deadline approaches, teams may look to enhance their rosters by acquiring players from other teams.

To accommodate new additions, the league expands roster spots after the trade deadline. This temporary expansion allows teams to integrate their newly acquired players into the lineup seamlessly.

Furthermore, in the playoffs, when the intensity and physicality of the games increase, the NHL permits teams to expand their rosters even further. This expansion, often referred to as “black aces,” allows teams to call up additional players from their minor league affiliates, providing them with additional depth and options throughout the playoffs.

3) Special Emergency Provisions for Injuries:

Injuries are an unfortunate reality in any sport, and the NHL has established special emergency provisions to address these situations promptly. When a team faces a significant number of injuries, affecting their ability to field a full lineup, they can apply for emergency player recalls from their minor league affiliates or sign players from other leagues on a temporary basis.

These emergency provisions aim to maintain the competitiveness and integrity of the league, ensuring that teams facing such adversities can still field a competitive roster. Once the injured players recover, teams must make corresponding roster moves to comply with the regular roster limits.

2) Reasons for Not Having a 23-Player Roster:

2.1 Salary Cap Implications:

The NHL operates under a salary cap system, where each team has a fixed amount they can spend on player salaries. Given the significant financial investments in the team’s star players, having a full 23-player roster can sometimes lead to complications in managing this budget.

By carrying a smaller roster, teams can free up salary cap space, which can then be utilized to sign coveted free agents or extend contracts for key players. This flexibility allows teams to strengthen their lineup by acquiring players who can make a substantial impact on the ice.

2.2 Creating Flexibility within the Roster:

Maintaining a smaller roster can also provide teams with the flexibility to maneuver and adjust their lineup based on factors such as opponents’ playing styles, injuries, or player performance. With a leaner roster, coaches have the ability to allocate more ice time to the players they believe can make a significant impact in a particular game or matchup.

Moreover, maintaining a smaller roster motivates players to consistently perform at their best, as they know they are crucial contributors to the team’s success. This focus on performance creates healthy competition within the team, pushing players to give their all and make a noticeable impact during their time on the ice.


Understanding the regulations and reasoning behind NHL roster limits and flexibility brings insight into the intricacies of team management and the challenges faced by both NHL organizations and players. By adhering to these rules, NHL teams can ensure a level playing field, competitive balance, and the ability to adapt to any circumstance that may arise during the course of a season.

Whether it’s the maximum and minimum player limits on the roster or the provisions in place for trade deadlines and injuries, these rules contribute to the excitement and dynamism that fans associate with the NHL. Title: Navigating NHL Rosters: Trade Deadlines, Dressed Players, and Backup GoaliesManaging NHL rosters requires meticulous planning and strategic decision-making.

From the flexibility surrounding trade deadlines to the specific configuration of dressed players for each game, understanding the intricacies of NHL rosters provides a deeper insight into the league’s dynamics. This article will delve into the rules and considerations regarding NHL rosters from the trade deadline until the end of the season, the configuration for dressed players, and the crucial role played by backup goalies.

3) NHL Rosters from Trade Deadline until the End of the Season:

3.1 No Roster Limit during this Period

Once the NHL trade deadline passes, teams have the freedom to expand their rosters beyond the usual 23 players. During this period, teams can call up players from their minor league affiliate, the American Hockey League (AHL), to bolster their lineups.

This flexibility allows teams to experiment with different player combinations, evaluate upcoming talent, and compensate for any injuries sustained by their main roster players. While there is no longer a strict limit on roster size during this phase, teams must still adhere to the salary cap constraints that govern player contracts and overall team spending.

3.2 Limit on Recalling Players from AHL Team

Despite the leniency in roster limits, there are some restrictions on the number of players that teams can recall from their AHL affiliate. Each team can only recall a maximum of four players after the trade deadline.

This limitation ensures that teams are mindful of their roster movements and encourages the development and opportunities for players in the AHL. 4) Number of Players Dressing for One Game:

4.1 Configuration for Dressed Players: 12 Forwards, 6 Defensemen, 2 Goalies

For every NHL game, teams must adhere to specific player configurations.

Typically, a team dresses 18 skaters and 2 goaltenders. These 20 players form the active roster for the game.

Out of these 18 skaters, teams typically dress 12 forwards and 6 defensemen. The forwards are typically divided into four lines, with three players on each line.

Meanwhile, the defensemen are split into three pairs, with two players per pair. This configuration allows coaches to create balanced lines based on players’ strengths, offensive and defensive capabilities, and strategy.

4.2 Possibility of Dressing 11 Forwards and 7 Defensemen

While the 12 forward and 6 defenseman configuration is the more common approach, there are instances where teams opt for a slight variation. In situations where teams have an excess of skilled defensemen or need additional reinforcement on the blue line, coaches may choose to dress 11 forwards and 7 defensemen.

This adjustment allows for more flexibility in defensive pairings, creating opportunities for fresh and well-rested defensemen to handle the intense demands of the game. However, this change also means sacrificing one forward from the lineup, which can impact overall offensive depth and scoring potential.

4.3 Backup Goalie’s Role in the Game

The backup goalie plays a unique and vital role in every NHL game. While the starting goalie receives most of the playing time and carries the bulk of the responsibility, the backup goalie is always ready to step in when needed.

Whether due to injury, fatigue, or strategic decisions made by the coach, the backup goalie must be prepared to perform at a high level at a moment’s notice. A backup goalie’s primary responsibility is to support the team and provide a reliable option for the starting goalie.

Their importance extends beyond their performance on the ice. By pushing and challenging the starting goalie in practice, the backup goalie contributes to the overall improvement of the team.

Backup goalies are often called upon for games on back-to-back nights, allowing the starting goalie to rest and recuperate. Their readiness and ability to seamlessly transition into the game contribute to the team’s success and provide an essential sense of security.


Navigating NHL rosters is an intricate process influenced by trade deadlines, balanced player configurations, and the role of backup goalies. The flexibility surrounding rosters after the trade deadline enables teams to fine-tune their lineup and address any shortcomings or challenges they may face.

Additionally, carefully selecting the number of forwards and defensemen dressed for each game ensures optimal performance and adaptability. Understanding the importance of backup goalies and their contribution to the team’s success highlights the significance of having a reliable second option in net.

These considerations and intricacies add depth to the sport, captivating fans and magnifying the thrill of every NHL game. Title: Balancing NHL Rosters: Exploring Healthy Scratches, Injured Reserve, and Roster FlexibilityManaging an NHL roster requires careful consideration of not only the active players but also those who may be healthy scratches or placed on injured reserve.

From determining the number of healthy scratches to the impact of the injured reserve designation on roster size and salary cap, understanding these aspects helps teams navigate the challenges of building a competitive lineup. This article will delve into the intricacies of healthy scratches, the advantages of injured reserve, and the eligibility and duration of players on the injured reserve list.

5) Number of Healthy Scratches:

The concept of healthy scratches refers to players who are physically fit to play but are not included in the lineup for a particular game. The number of healthy scratches varies from game to game, depending on the roster size and the coach’s strategic decisions.

5.1 Determined by Roster Size Minus Number of Players Playing (Usually 2 or 3)

The number of healthy scratches is directly linked to the roster size allowed by the NHL, minus the number of players actively participating in the game. Typically, coaches choose to dress 18 skaters and 2 goaltenders, resulting in a total of 20 players.

Therefore, the number of healthy scratches will vary from game to game but is usually around 2 or 3 players. The decision of who becomes a healthy scratch is dependent on various factors such as player performance, team dynamics, and strategic matchups against the opposing team.

Coaches often utilize healthy scratches to maintain a healthy level of competition within the team, encourage players to constantly improve, and adapt the lineup to the specific needs of each game. 6) Injured Reserve and its Effect on Roster Size:

6.1 Injured Reserve Designation for Physically Unable Players

When a player sustains an injury that renders them physically unable to compete for a certain period of time, teams can designate them for the injured reserve list.

This designation serves several important purposes, both for the team’s roster size and managing the salary cap. 6.2 Advantages of Injured Reserve for Roster Spots and Salary Cap

By placing an injured player on the reserve list, teams are allowed to remove them from their active roster, creating an open roster spot.

This freeing up of a roster spot enables teams to call up another player from the minor leagues or make adjustments to the lineup to address the injured player’s absence. Moreover, injured players on the reserve list do not count towards the team’s salary cap during their time on the list.

This provides teams with some financial relief, allowing them the flexibility to make other necessary moves such as signing additional players or making trades without exceeding the salary cap limits. 6.3 Player’s Eligibility and Duration on Injured Reserve

To be eligible for the injured reserve list, a player must meet certain criteria set by the NHL.

Typically, the injury must prohibit the player from participating in games or practices for a minimum of seven days. The team’s medical staff provides documentation to support the player’s inability to compete during this time.

The duration of a player’s stay on injured reserve can vary depending on the severity of the injury. Once the player recovers and is cleared by the medical staff, they can be activated and returned to the active roster.

Importantly, the NHL has a specific protocol in place to prevent any manipulation of the injured reserve list solely for roster flexibility or salary cap circumvention purposes. The league carefully monitors and reviews player injuries and their designation to ensure compliance with the rules and maintain the integrity of the game.


Understanding the dynamics of NHL rosters goes beyond the active players on the ice. The presence of healthy scratches allows coaches to make strategic lineup decisions, creating healthy competition within the team.

Additionally, the injured reserve designation serves as a valuable tool for managing roster spots, providing financial flexibility, and assisting teams in navigating the salary cap. By comprehending the eligibility criteria and duration of players on the injured reserve list, teams can ensure fair play and maintain an optimal roster for success.

These aspects combine to create a complex system that highlights the intricacies of team management within the NHL. Title: Nurturing Talent: The Role of Minor League Teams and NHL Roster Changes for PlayoffsBeyond the glitz and glamour of the NHL lies a robust network of minor league teams that play a crucial role in developing players and shaping the future of the sport.

Understanding the relationship between NHL teams and their minor league affiliates is vital to grasp the movement of players, the impact of salary caps, and the nuances of roster changes for the playoffs. This article will explore the significance of minor league teams in player development, the considerations and movement between the minor league and NHL teams, as well as the unique roster changes during the playoffs.

7) 50 Players Under Contract:

The NHL permits teams to have a maximum of 50 players under contract. This number encompasses both players on the NHL roster and those within the organization, including those assigned to minor league teams.

7.1 Role of Minor League Team in Player Development

Minor league teams, often affiliated with NHL organizations, serve as crucial developmental platforms for players. These teams, such as those in the American Hockey League (AHL), provide a bridge between amateur and professional hockey.

Players on entry-level contracts, prospects, and those not currently on the NHL roster have the opportunity to gain valuable experience and refine their skills at the minor league level. Minor league teams focus on player development, providing players with a competitive environment to refine their skills, adjust to the speed and physicality of professional hockey, and adapt to the tactical aspects of the game.

The coaching and development staff work closely with players to ensure they have the necessary tools and guidance to progress in their careers. 7.2 Movement of Players between Minor League and NHL Team based on Performance/Injuries

Player movement between minor league teams and the NHL is dynamic and continuous.

Injuries to NHL roster players or a need for improved performance may prompt teams to recall players from the minors. Conversely, NHL players struggling with form or in need of additional ice time may be temporarily assigned to the AHL for further development.

These movements are contingent on the performance and readiness of players, as well as the overall strategy and needs of the NHL team. The close relationship between NHL organizations and their minor league affiliates facilitates smooth transitions, allowing players to seamlessly integrate into different environments.

7.3 Consideration of Salary Cap Implications

Throughout player movement between the NHL and minor league teams, salary cap implications play a significant role. Each NHL team must adhere to the salary cap limit while ensuring they have enough cap space to accommodate roster changes and new acquisitions.

Teams meticulously manage their rosters and salary cap to strike a balance between player development and maintaining salary cap flexibility. Often, placing an NHL player on waivers to send them to the minors is a strategic decision to manage salary cap space and maintain roster depth.

8) NHL Roster Changes for Playoffs:

8.1 No Roster Limit for Playoffs

Unlike the regular season, where roster limits are in place, the NHL playoffs allow teams to have an unlimited number of players on their roster. This flexibility grants teams the opportunity to bolster their lineup by recalling additional players from the minors or adding depth through acquisitions.

8.2 Acquisition Deadline for Trade Deadline Players to be Eligible for Playoffs

To be eligible for the playoffs, players acquired through trades near the trade deadline must meet specific acquisition deadline requirements. The NHL sets a designated deadline by which players must be acquired to be eligible to play in the postseason.

This ensures fairness and prevents last-minute roster manipulations. 8.3 Possible Inclusion of AHL Players in Non-Playing Roles

During the playoffs, it is common for NHL teams to include AHL players in non-playing roles.

These players primarily serve as practice squad members, providing additional depth to the team during intense playoff runs. They may participate in team practices, experience the intensity of playoff hockey, and gain valuable insight to aid in their development.

This inclusion benefits both the NHL team, ensuring they have enough practice players to maintain a high level of competitiveness, and the AHL players, who gain exposure to the playoffs and the chance to learn from NHL veterans. Conclusion:

The interconnectedness between NHL teams and their minor league affiliates is pivotal in nurturing talent and cultivating the next generation of hockey stars.

Through minor league teams’ focused player development programs, prospects and players seek to refine their skills and make the leap to the NHL level. The movement of players between minor league and NHL teams is carefully orchestrated, considering performance, injuries, and the ever-present salary cap implications.

As the playoffs arrive, teams can adapt their rosters without restriction, exploring options to strengthen their lineup, including AHL players in non-playing roles. By understanding these dynamics, we gain insight into the holistic approach to player development and the strategic decision-making processes employed by NHL teams.

Title: Demystifying NHL Rosters: The Reserved List, Taxi Squads, and Roster Rules for the 2020-21 SeasonNavigating NHL rosters involves understanding the intricacies of the reserved list, which encompasses player rights and affiliations, as well as the evolving rules and composition of rosters. The 2020-21 season brought new dynamics with the introduction of taxi squads, adding another layer to roster management.

This article will delve into the definition and composition of the reserved list, explore the role of taxi squads, and discuss the roster rules implemented for the 2020-21 season. 9) 90 Player Reserved List:

9.1 Definition and Composition of Reserved List

The reserved list refers to the comprehensive collection of players registered under an NHL team’s rights.

It includes players at various levels, from those on the active roster to those in the minor leagues or in the team’s development system. The composition of the reserved list encompasses three primary categories:

– Roster Players: These are the players on the active NHL roster who represent the team in games throughout the season.

These players contribute directly to the team’s success and are typically limited to a set number determined by the NHL. – Minor League Players: Players who operate within the team’s minor league system, such as the AHL or ECHL, are also included on the reserved list.

These players can be called up to join the NHL roster when needed or to provide additional depth during injuries or other unforeseen circumstances. – Player Rights: The reserved list also comprises players whose rights are held by the NHL team.

These players may be playing in other leagues, such as college hockey or European leagues, and the team retains their exclusive rights until specific conditions are met. 9.2 Limit on Exceeding the 90 Player Count

The NHL imposes a limit of 90 players on a team’s reserved list at any given time.

This restriction ensures that teams maintain a manageable number of players and have better control over player development and utilization. Exceeding the 90-player limit can result in disciplinary action by the NHL, such as fines or future draft pick penalties.

Teams must be mindful of their reserved list’s size and carefully navigate player acquisitions, signings, and assignment decisions to remain within the league’s regulations. 10) Roster Rules for the 2020-21 Season and Taxi Squad:

10.1of Taxi Squad with 4 to 6 Players, Including a Goalie

To adapt to the unique challenges faced during the 2020-21 season, the NHL introduced the concept of taxi squads.

Each team was allowed to carry a taxi squad consisting of 4 to 6 players, which included at least one goaltender. This taxi squad acted as an extension of the NHL roster, enhancing player depth and addressing the potential impact of COVID-19-related issues.

10.2 Comparison of Taxi Squad to a Division of the Minor League Club

The taxi squad shares similarities with a traditional minor league club division, but with key differences. While minor league clubs focus on player development through regular game participation, taxi squads function primarily as insurance against unexpected circumstances, such as COVID-19-related absences or injuries within the NHL team.

Players on the taxi squad practice and train with the NHL team and are subject to call-ups at any time. This dynamic environment allows these players to hone their skills, learn from NHL veterans, and remain ready to contribute when called upon, bridging the gap between the minor leagues and the NHL.

10.3 Waivers and Salary Implications for Taxi Squad Players

When a player is assigned to the taxi squad, they do not need to pass through waivers. However, if a player on the taxi squad is to be recalled to the NHL roster and has previously required waivers for assignment, they must clear waivers before joining the team.

Salary implications for taxi squad players depend on their individual contracts and status within the NHL organization. While on the taxi squad, players receive AHL-level salaries, distinct from their NHL contracts.

However, their NHL salary cap hits remain unchanged, counting against the team’s overall payroll. These salary considerations, coupled with salary cap constraints, play a significant role in determining the movement and utilization of players on taxi squads.

10.4 Potential Movement between Taxi Squad and NHL Team

Players on the taxi squad can be called up and activated to the NHL roster as needed. The frequency of movement depends on various factors, such as injuries, performance, and the evolving needs of the NHL team.

The fluidity between the taxi squad and the NHL team allows for seamless transitions, ensuring an adequate lineup even in the face of unexpected challenges. These movements provide opportunities for players to prove their capabilities, gain exposure to the NHL environment, and potentially secure a permanent roster spot.


Understanding the intricacies of the reserved list, the introduction of taxi squads, and the roster rules implemented for the 2020-21 season offers valuable insights into the complex world of NHL roster management. By maintaining a comprehensive list of players’ rights and affiliations, NHL teams can make strategic decisions to foster player development and successfully navigate the challenges posed by injuries, COVID-19-related issues, and other unforeseen circumstances.

The evolution of roster rules and the inclusion of taxi squads underscore the NHL’s commitment to adaptability and ensuring the integrity of the game, while providing opportunities for emerging talent to thrive. In summary, understanding NHL roster management is essential for teams to navigate the complexities of player development, roster limits, and roster changes.

The reserved list, comprising players on the active roster, minor leagues, and those whose rights are held, influences the team’s composition and strategic decision-making. The introduction of taxi squads in the 2020-21 season added a new layer to roster management, offering flexibility and depth.

The importance of adhering to roster limits, salary cap implications, and the movements between the taxi squad and NHL team cannot be overstated. These dynamics highlight the NHL’s commitment to nurturing talent and maintaining competitiveness.

By comprehending these factors, fans gain a deeper appreciation for the intricate workings of the league, leaving a lasting impression of the intricacies involved in building a successful NHL team.

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