Debunking the NHL waiver wire

Unlike some professional leagues, the NHL waivers do not always mean a player who clears waivers and elects free agency will be released by his team. Most NHL players will need to clear waivers before the club can assign them to a minor league team. In order to clear waivers, a player will have to be passed on by every other NHL team which will have the option to claim that player off of the waiver wire and assume his contract and cap hit. The team that claims a player on waivers does not have to provide a compensation to the originating team (unless the player is claimed on re-entry waivers).

If a player clears waivers, the team has the right to send the waived player to a minor league affiliate within 30 days (generally its AHL affiliate), or it can elect to keep that player with their club. That’s what happened recently when the New Jersey Devils put Brian Rolston on waivers in order to shed some salary. No team claimed due to his big contract; therefore, the Devils kept him with the parent club. If a player refuses to report to the minors, the team can suspend and/or release the player (i.e. not pay them). That’s what happened last season when the Minnesota Wild assigned Petr Sykora to its AHL affiliate. Sykora refused the assignment and was released by the Wild. He signed to play in Europe thereafter.

Once a player has been waived to the AHL, in order to get a player back in the NHL, he will have to clear “re-entry waivers”. If another NHL team claims the player on re-entry waivers, the team that acquired the player and the team that placed that player on re-entry waivers will pay half of the remainder of the player’s current contract and salary cap hit. It happened last season when the New York Rangers claimed goalie Alex Auld from the Dallas Stars. However, if the re-entry claim occurs after the NHL trading deadline, the claiming team cannot play the player until the following campaign.

Also, please note that according to Section 13.2 of the CBA: “The “Playing Season Waiver Period” shall begin on the twelfth (12th) day prior to the start of the Regular Season and end on the day following the last day of a Club’s Playing Season”. That’s what happened to Jeff Finger earlier this season, as the Toronto Maple Leafs had to wait twelve days before demoting him to their AHL affiliate.

A player loaned to a minor league team on a one-contract will receive his full NHL salary.

Below, you will find the exemptions from regular waivers.
The following NHL players can be assigned to the AHL as many times as a club wishes without needing to clear waivers.

Now, the exemptions from re-entry waivers only.
The following players are exempt from re-entry waivers. Such players, however, may not be exempt from regular waivers, depending on the number of games played.

1. Any player on an NHL contract whose AHL salary is no more than $105,000.
2. Any player on an AHL contract salary is no more than $105,000, who is then signed to an NHL contract with that club’s affiliated team during that season.
3. So-called “Veteran Minor League Players”, defined as:
1. For goaltenders, at least 180 games played in the NHL, AHL, and ECHL combined, AND
1. Who have not been on an NHL roster for at least 80 games over the past two seasons, AND
2. Who have not been on an NHL roster for at least 40 games in the previous season.
2. For forwards and defensemen, at least 320 games played in the NHL, AHL, and ECHL combined, AND
1. Who have not been on an NHL roster for at least 80 games over the past two seasons, AND
2. Who have not been on an NHL roster for at least 40 games in the previous season.

A player can also be loaned to a minor league affiliate for conditioning by the NHL club. Such a conditioning lone cannot extend for more than fourteen (14) consecutive days and the player must consent to the loan. A player loaned to a farm team will still receive his full NHL salary. Earlier this season, the Anaheim Ducks sent forward Joffrey Lupul to their AHL affiliate on a conditioning stint after activating him from the injury reserve. Lupul missed several months of action after developing an infection following his back surgery.

Now let’s have a look at the most recent situation regarding the NHL waivers. Marc-Andre Bergeron, who signed a one-year two-way contract yesterday with the Tampa Bay Lightning has been sent to the AHL to regain his game shape. Bergeron, who has been out with a knee injury since the 2010 playoffs, will make $1 million in the NHL and $105,000 if he plays in the AHL. The Lightning had the option of adding him to the active roster and sending him to the minors on a conditioning assignment like Joffrey Lupul. However, GM Steve Yzerman decided to gamble and put him on waivers so the team can pay him his AHL salary and keep him there for more than 14 days, if necessary. Bergeron will not be subject to re-entry waivers as his AHL contract is not more than $105,000 as stated above.

Another waiver situation occurred recently when the St. Louis Blues signed Marek Svatos to an NHL contract. However, because Svatos was playing outside of North America in the KHL earlier this season, Svatos had to be placed on waivers for 24 hours after being signed by the Blues. As a result the Nashville Predators claimed him on waivers and will be responsible for the contract his signed with St. Louis. A one year, two-way deal worth $800,000 in NHL and $105,000 in minors. it’s one of the reason goalie Evgeny Nabokov, who was released from his KHL contract in December has yet to sign with an NHL team, as he would also need to be put on waivers.

A player on loan to an affiliate club (AHL, ECHL) may be recalled by an NHL team under emergency conditions at any time for the duration of the emergency. But, the player must be immediately returned to the loaning club when the emergency condition ends.

An emergency condition occurs when the loaning club’s roster is reduced (by reasons of injury, illness or suspension) below 2 goalies, 6 defensemen or 12 forwards. The Devils used this rule to recall several players due to salary cap issues without having to put them on re-entry waivers, including Mike McKenna, Mark Fayne and Matthew Corrente.

Finally, the waiver order is determined as follow:
Before November 1st of the NHL season, the reverse standings of the previous year determine the order. For example, the Edmonton Oilers had the first chance to pick any player waived prior to November 1st, 2010 because they finished last in the standings in 2009-10.

After November 1st, the order is determined by reverse standings of the current year (at the time the player is placed on waivers). The lowest team in the standings putting a claim on a player is guaranteed to get that player. Therefore, the Devils have a much better chance of claiming a waived player than the Penguins…

If you have any questions regarding the NHL waivers, don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments section below as the CBA can be quite complicated sometimes.

Sources: Wikipedia and the 2005 NHL CBA.

You can also follow me on Twitter for more info on the NHL and the Montreal Canadiens.

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About the Author: Working as a freelance sports writer and translator, Fred, 33, graduated from Laval University in Quebec City, earning a bachelor of translation in 2002. An avid fan of the Northeast division teams, he's also a long time fan of the Washington Capitals and the Montreal Canadiens. Fred also speaks fluently French and Spanish.

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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by TB Lightning Feed, Fred Poulin. Fred Poulin said: Debunking the NHL waiver wire -> #Bergeron #Svatos #Rolston [...]

  2. oilismyblood says:

    Great article that cleared up a lot of Q’s for me.
    One area of confusion, though. You state that NJ
    put Rolston on waivers to shed some salary. As we
    know, he cleared – does that mean they did indeed
    shed, or would have ONLY if he’d been picked up?

    • Fred Poulin says:

      Good question! The Devils didn’t shed any salary since he was not claimed. A team had to claim him in order for the Devils to get Rolston’s salary off the cap. Even if he had cleared and was sent to the AHL, they would still be responsible for his full salary.

  3. lemon drop the gloves says:

    i read something about boris valabik and the ahl wolves/thrashers and re-entry waivers. could you detail his situation? thanks