Waivers in the NHL are a complicated business. For most players on regular waivers, the intention of the team who waived them is to send them to the AHL, not to never see them again. Sometimes the team wants a player claimed, but not often.
Occasionally a team has both of their extra goalies claimed in one day. Goalies are almost a special category when discussing waivers, however, since it’s not exactly uncommon for a team to claim a goalie for a short term injury replacement and then not need them later.
Carolina claimed Curtis McElhinney largely because Scott Darling has an injury that will keep him out for a short period of time, according to current reports.
#Canes head coach Rod Brind'Amour said Scott Darling's MRI revealed nothing major, but the goaltender is expected to miss "a couple weeks, for sure."— Michael Smith (@MSmithCanes) October 2, 2018
Philadelphia claimed Calvin Pickard and they have Michal Neuvirth down with a minor injury that he suffered in preseason. They’ve also had some injuries to some of their AHL goalies.
With both Darling and Neuvirth expected to recover relatively soon by all reports, both the Hurricanes and the Flyers will suddenly have three NHL goalies, and will need to make a decision.
The cap hit issue might be interesting if the two new guys do well on their new teams:
- Pickard: $800,000
- Neuvirth: $2,500,000
- McElhinney: $850,00
- Darling: $4,150,000 with Mrazek as the backup at $1,500,000
But assuming their claiming teams decide they don’t want them, once their injured players are ready to return, what happens next?
The teams might be able to trade the claimed goalie. If another team put in an unsuccessful claim on the player, the claiming team would first have to offer that player to them at the same terms they are getting from their prospective trading partner. But otherwise, if a deal can be found, they can make that trade. The new team would need to put the player through waivers to send them to the AHL.
If the claiming team decides to simply waive the player in order to send them to their own AHL team, then the Leafs can pounce:
13.22 When a Club claims a Player on Regular or Unconditional Waivers, and, subsequently, in the same season it requests Waivers on the same Player and the original owning Club is the successful and only Club making a Waiver claim, then the original owning Club shall be entitled to Loan such Player to a club in another league within thirty days without further Waivers being asked; provided that such Player has not participated in ten or more NHL Games (cumulative) and remained on an NHL roster more than thirty days (cumulative) following such successful claim.
— NHL CBA
If the Leafs are the only club interested in getting the player back, they not only get him, they can send him directly to the AHL without waivers.
Given that, it’s fairly likely that one of, or both, of Pickard and McElhinney will end up on the Marlies, ready to be used if needed in the NHL.
Let’s have an example:
Say Carolina puts McElhinney on waivers when Darling returns. Toronto claims him back with no one else making a claim, so Toronto puts him on the Marlies where he plays for a while. Then later in the season, the Leafs want to play McElhinney as the backup, not Sparks. In this scenario, no one is on IR necessitating an emergency call-up. The Leafs can just call up McElhinney, play him for nine games or 29 consecutive days and then send him back to the minors without waivers. All of that is subject to there being space on the 23-man roster to do it, but that’s always the case with non-emergency call-ups.
This uncertainty puts the Leafs in an interesting position short term. Eamon McAdam is in Newfoundland with the Growlers. They can either call him back up and let the Growlers use their extra man on a PTO, or the Marlies can sign Justin Peters to a deal — or keep him on a PTO for a bit — and use him.
Just when you think there’s no more goalie carousel, think again. Nothing about goaltending is ever certain.