WORCESTER – With the Worcester Railers season over fans got to see what the ECHL is all about on the ice, but the off season is still full of new things that didn’t happen when the city was home to the American Hockey League.

Unlike the AHL, the ECHL has protected and reserve lists, and on June 1st the Railers will need to submit to the ECHL the players they are placing on their Protected List. Since there is no maximum number of players the Railers can add to this list, expect to see every player that was signed to a standard player’s contract by General Manager Jamie Russell and wasn’t subsequently released added to the list.

The Railers can also place players that left the team and were suspended on the Protected List, which means that we’ll likely see Patrick McNally’s name appear on it. Justin Agosta, acquired from the Manchester Monarchs in the Ashton Rome trade, is a toss-up to be added, but it’s probably unlikely as he’s shown he doesn’t want to play here. Players that were in Worcester on NHL or AHL contracts are not eligible to be added to the Protected List.

There’s actually a long list of things that qualify or disqualify players for the Protected List, but during this off season most don’t apply to Worcester.

Once the list is released by the ECHL we can all look at it, discuss it if we wish, and then we can promptly forget it exists. It is essentially a worthless list once the Season Ending Rosters are due to the ECHL on June 15th.

Those Season Ending Rosters are limited to 20 players, and can only include players who signed contracts for the 2017-18 season. From their Season Ending Roster the Railers can then reserve the ECHL rights of up to eight players by giving them a qualifying offer by June 30th. Any player that Worcester re-signs between June 16th, the first day they can sign players to contracts for the 2018-2019 season, and June 30th doesn’t count toward the eight they can qualify.

Players have until August 1st to accept their qualifying offer, and after that date the qualifying offer become void and the two sides can negotiate different terms. If the player is a non-veteran player and doesn’t re-sign with the Railers Worcester will maintain their ECHL player rights through the 2018-19 season. In essence, if the Railers qualify them and the player wants to play in the ECHL, it will be with Worcester unless something else gets worked out.

Veteran players who received qualifying offers have a bit more leverage, and can sign with any team after August 1st as a restricted free agent. If they do so then the Railers would then have seven days after receiving notice of the contract offer to match. After August 31st a veteran ECHL player becomes an unrestricted free agent, and can freely sign with any team.

In any case, players on open qualifying offers can’t be traded.

Like the NHL and AHL, the new league year for the ECHL starts on July 1st. Since the Railers roster is somewhat dependent on what the New York Islanders and Bridgeport Sound Tigers have agreed to send to Worcester paying attention to signings by both of the Railers affiliates might give some indication as to what Russell will be looking for in singing players for the 2018-19 season.

The Railers home opener is scheduled for October 20th, but for the first summer in a while Worcester hockey fans have a reason to pay attention to the comings and goings of the off season.