Let’s talk waivers. It’s everyone’s favourite topic as the realization sets in that the exhibition games are terrible and the real drama is who is cut from the roster and when.
The Leafs had a gigantic training camp roster, but a lot of the number was draft picks, AHL- and ECHL-contracted players, and a very few players on ATOs. None of those people need waivers when they are cut, and we saw almost all of them move on to junior hockey or to the Marlies camp one ice sheet over at the MCC.
Some of the waiver-exempt NHL-contracted players are heading right to Sheldon Keefe’s version of hockey school too. With the ATOs all gone, it’s obvious there are no NHL contracts about to be handed out at this training camp. Roman Polak, on a PTO, is the only potential new contract out of this group, but try and set that fear aside for now and focus on the players who are on NHL deals who could possibly be sent to the AHL.
How this all works
The waiver period starts (per CapFriendly, as always the greatest resource) 12 days before the start of the regular season, which is September 22. In practical terms, unless a team is trying a “take this guy, please” move with waivers, you won’t see any activity until just before the regular season begins.
A player is on waivers for 24 hours, so the actual transfer happens the day after they are waived.
Waivers, remember, are not the recycle bin. Teams don’t put players on waivers to punish them, to make a statement about how bad they are, or to try to get rid of them (most of the time). Usually, the sole and only purpose is to assign a player to the AHL. Usually, a team has every intention of keeping players they put on waivers.
There are thousands of player transfers between the AHL and the NHL every year, and yet the number of players claimed off of waivers is very small in any given year. The worry over the risk far outstrips the actual risk, but if knowing with certainty what the other teams will do was possible, life would be duller as a fan.
From now until October 31, last year’s regular season standings make the priority order with Las Vegas in third place. On November 1, the priority list changes to this year’s standing. So for now the priority is:
- Las Vegas
- New Jersey
- Los Angeles
- New York Islanders
- San Jose
- St. Louis
- New York Rangers
Last year three teams cut a lot of players from their camps on the second last day before they had to trim the roster to 23 and get under the cap ceiling. Everyone else made their cuts all on the last day. A few more cuts happened after as teams changed their rosters around.
This year, the season begins on October 4, so the roster that meets the cap and has no more than 23 players on it who are not on IR has to be finalized on Tuesday, October 3. Monday, and Tuesday of that week will be the big waivers days where there’s so many people being sent to the AHL, it is possible to sneak that player you think is great past the noses of the other 30 GMs.
Most teams do not have roster space or cap room to make a claim right at that time. If a team short of players and with a lot of cap space leaves themselves with a short roster after they’ve made their cuts, they may well be hunting. They may well be called the Avalanche too and have top priority.
Last year there were seven players taken on waivers before the NHL season began. They were:
October 9, 2016
October 11, 2016
- Mike Condon was taken by the Pittsburgh Penguins from the Montréal Canadiens
- Seth Griffith was taken by the Toronto Maple Leafs from the Boston Bruins
- Klas Dahlbeck was taken by the Carolina Hurricanes from the Arizona Coyotes
- Teemu Pulkkinen was taken by the Minnesota Wild from the Detroit Red Wings
- P.A. Parenteau was taken by the New Jersey Devils from the New York Islanders
October 13, 2016
With the exception of the grab of Mike Condon, none of the taking teams had been playoff teams, until the Ducks went for Etem on the first day of the season.
Condon was ultimately traded away, Griffith and Frk were recalimed on wiavers by other teams and Parenteau was dealt at the deadline. Pulkkinen ended up in Vegas and only Dahlbeck is still with the team that grabbed him.
No one made out like a bandit. No one ever does.
The Leafs have a lot of cuts to make, but because the bulk of their players are waiver exempt new signings, there’s not a lot of risk of loss. The possible cuts (a few are already gone) and their status are:
2017 Training Camp Possible Cuts
Kerby Rychel and Josh Leivo are the only real waivers risks whose loss would be considered an actual loss. It seems unlikely anyone would be interested enough in an AHL goalie, no matter how good, to grab Sparks, and while Eric Fehr might be an asset to have in the press box, his salary makes him a safe candidate for waivers, leaving that spot open for Leivo as the likely 13th forward.
The three AHLers on NHL contracts: Greening, LoVerde and Mueller are totally safe because no one takes those guys without a contract going back the other way. It’s just not done, even if a team has SPC space. This is one of those traditions that greases the wheels of the inter-team relationships and upsets fans who don’t understand why teams aren’t ruthless all the time. Damn the consequences, full speed ahead, piss everyone off!
Josh Leivo has a very tasty, super low cap hit, which cap strapped contenders might covet at the deadline. The Leafs are unlikely to risk him and likely want to play him in the NHL. Rychel has not shown enough real value to be at much risk. I don’t expect Buffalo to have any difficulty getting Seth Griffith through waivers and onto their AHL roster, and he’s better. Rychel is younger, however, which is the thing that might tempt a team short of players to grab him.
Because the hungry Avalanche are out there willing to try playing Jared Cowen, they need defenders so bad, you should not expect any non-exempt defenceman to be sent down, no matter how great you think Rosen, Borgman or Dermott are.
But what about the other direction? Are the Leafs in the market to grab a player? They took Curtis McElhinney last year, and are happy with him. But it seems unlikely that the Leafs would make a move unless someone puts a backup goalie they think is better on waivers.
What’s much more likely to happen is that the Leafs will have a list of depth players they are willing to deal off their NHL roster if anyone wants a swap. Sometimes something good comes of that, and sometimes you trade Richard Panik for Jeremy Morin.
Waivers day is unlikely to be panic time for the Leafs this year. The risk is not great, they aren’t a team that shops in the bargain bin anymore, and to get better, they need to make trades. Eventually.