The next big date in the MLS off-season calendar is the MLS Re-Entry Draft. Let me refresh you on what this is, as it's only the second year this has happened.
The MLS Re-Entry draft is a mechanism written into the MLS CBA back in 2009 that allows for freer player movement within the league for teams that are willing to pay a veteran player's contract. You can kind of call this the Kevin Hartman rule as Hartman was in limbo for awhile as a veteran who could not come to a deal with Kansas City, but was not allowed to move elsewhere.
The first stage of the re-entry draft happens a week from today on Monday, December 5 and basically says players that fall under the following criteria can be signed to their 2012 contract option number if a team wants them and their original team has declined the option.
Players who are at least 23-years-old and have a minimum of three years of MLS experience whose options were not exercised by their clubs (available at option salary for 2012). Players who are at least 25-years-old with a minimum of four years of MLS experience who are out of contract and whose club does not offer them a contract at their previous salary (available at 2011 salary). Players who are at least 30-years-old with a minimum of eight years of MLS experience who are out of contract and whose club does not wish to re-sign them (available for at least 105% of their 2011 salary).
Last year stage one was a major non-event as just Joseph Ngwenya and Aaron Hohlbein switched teams.
Stage two of the re-entry draft, however, was one of the busiest days of the off-season for FC Dallas and one major player from this season could be involved.
Stage 2 of the draft takes place two weeks from today on Monday, December 12. In that stage of the draft, teams that select players are not obligated to give them their 2012 options, but basically get an exclusive negotiating period to offer a new contract. Should the team and player not come to an agreement that player will become a free agent.
I.E. Player 1 was paid $100,000 in 2011 and his team does not want to pay him that for 2012. They offer player 1 $60,000 to play in 2012. Player 1 chooses to go to the re-entry draft and is selected in round 2. The team that selects him does not want to pay his $100,000 option but offers $80,000 which player 1 accepts and moves to his new team for $20,000 more than his original team was willing to pay.
In 2010, we saw this happen with Jeff Cunningham who was paid more than $200,000 by FC Dallas in 2010, but was selected by Columbus Crew in phase 2 of the re-entry draft and signed a contract worth around $150,000 for the 2011 season. On that same day, FCD traded for Chris Seitz who was selected by Seattle Sounders and instantly flipped to Dallas for a fourth round contract. Seitz was signed to a new contract that pays him $100,000.
So how does this all affect FC Dallas? Last year, Dallas had two names eligible for the re-entry draft and this year the biggest name could be team captain Daniel Hernandez.
Hernandez has spent more than 8 years in the league so he would be eligible for the re-entry draft should Dallas and the captain not come to a contract agreement before next Monday. Daniel has made comments on Twitter in the past few weeks(here, here and here), suggesting that neither side has been able to come to an agreement on his 2012 compensation and I think we'd all agree that his $172,500 cap hit for 2011 is probably too much for a 35 year old midfielder coming off knee surgery.
A player is not obligated to enter his name into the re-entry draft so even if Hernandez and Dallas are not able to come to an agreement by Monday, he could leave himself off the list, but the draft could be a leveraging tool for Hernandez to use against FCD in getting a deal done rather than risking him to another team.
While I don't see anyone selecting Hernandez in the first phase of the draft next Monday, I can see a scenario where a team selects him in the second phase hoping to sign him to a lower number that is still higher than what Dallas would offer.
There is one other player that may be eligible for re-entry draft and that is Jeremy Hall. At 23 years old with three years of MLS experience, Hall is eligible from that sense, but I'm not sure on whether his $129,000 contract is a 4 year deal that would be guaranteed through 2012 or if this next season is an option which FCD could decline due to the high cap number. You can view all the FCD salary cap and contract numbers here.
A list of players eligible for the re-entry draft will be released at some point on Wednesday which should provide for some good discussion around here. We looked at it last year and there were some pretty good names out there for selection.