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Maple Leafs will be putting players through waivers a lot this year

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It’s that time of the year again. Refresh your memory on all things waivers.

NHL: SEP 18 Preseason - Maple Leafs at Senators Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

You can tell a team is ageing, er, getting more mature, when they have very few players who are waiver exempt. As the number of prospects dwindles and the number of older depth skaters rises, the waiver wire gets a workout. Today marks the first day NHL teams can place players on waivers for the purpose of assignment to the minor leagues. Or for any other purpose, of course.

Occasionally, a team is waiving a player because they genuinely want some other team to claim him, but usually they just need to put him in the AHL. While some players will get cut to the minors as early as today, most of the cuts will happen closer to October 1, which is the date on which all NHL teams must have a cap-compliant, maximum 23-man roster by 5 p.m. New York time.

For the Maple Leafs, it’s time (past time) they took a more mature and reasonable approach to managing their depth and started risking the waiver wire for whoever they need to cut. The days of Frank Corrado or Josh Leivo becoming famous for not playing hockey are over. They have to be over. The Maple Leafs don’t have the cap space to fill the press box with prisoners, so no one needs yellow ribbons or a hashtag campaign to free them this season.

As outlined in that article, there will be room at first to fit 23-men on the roster, but once Zach Hyman is back, then things will change.

Waiver Exemption

There are two kinds of waiver exemption. The first is what every player on an ELC starts out with, and how long they stay exempt depends on how many years they’ve played in the minors (not junior) and how many NHL games they’ve played. CapFriendly has an extensive FAQ on this if you like knowing all the rules. Even better, they have a calculator tool, so you don’t need to learn the rules at all.

Because waiver exemption goes away eventually, even if you never play outside the AHL, there are a lot of players who will definitely be cut by the Leafs who need waivers to go to the Marlies.

Note: waivers applies only to players on NHL contacts. All the AHL-contracted players at camp are there on try-out deals and can be sent back at any time.

Goalies

Ian Scott, who was already cut, and Joseph Woll are the only exempt goalies, so Kasimir Kaskisuo and Michael Hutchinson both have to clear waivers to be sent to the Marlies. As we learned last year, having two extra backups you wish to cut is a dangerous game, because you can’t trade one of them. Everyone knows they just need to wait for you to waive them both. Kaskisuo isn’t really a backup prospect and will clear easily. The Leafs are using a PTO for Michal Neuvirth to have a backup Plan B to Hutchinson who is the backup Plan A.

Defence

The Marlies defence are mostly very young and all are waiver exempt, including Teemu Kivihalme. The potential third-pair and depth NHL players aren’t. Kevin Gravel, Jordan Schmaltz, Ben Harpur, Martin Marincin and Justin Holl all need waivers. Marincin cleared last year, while Holl was held in the press box and never risked on waivers.

Forwards

The only forward likely to play on the Maple Leafs who is exempt this year is Ilya Mikheyev. The younger Marlies players all retain their exemption, all but one. Dmytro Timashov has lost his exemption on years played. The tweeners and NHL depth that all need waivers are: Garret Wilson, Kalle Kossila, Tyler Gaudet, Pontus Aberg, Frederik Gauthier, Kenny Agostino, Nick Shore, and Nic Petan.

Garret Wilson is currently injured, and injured players cannot be waived. He may start out on LTIR or IR depending on the cap situation.

Of all the currently exempt players, some have an NHL-games-played counter less than a full season. If they somehow end up on the NHL roster, they could lose that exemption, but this is highly unlikely. Egor Korshkov, Mason Marchment, Pierre Engvall, Adam Brooks, Jesper Lindgren, Joey Duszak, Mac Hollowell, Ian Scott and Joseph Woll all have less than 82 games on their counters.

The second type of waiver exemption is an issue we’ll dig into later in the season, but the short version is, once a player has cleared waivers, they are exempt for 9 NHL games played or 29 days on the NHL roster. This is more complex in practice than that, and we’ll have to learn the various rules for regular and emergency call-ups as the season goes on.

Waiver Procedure

NHL teams file their list of players to be waived by noon every day from now through the end of the season. Other teams have 24 hours to claim the player, and the claim is awarded based on a priority list.

From now until November 1, that priority is the reverse of last year’s standings, so it looks like this:

  1. Ottawa
  2. Los Angeles
  3. New Jersey
  4. Detroit
  5. Buffalo
  6. New York Rangers
  7. Edmonton
  8. Anaheim
  9. Vancouver
  10. Philadelphia
  11. Minnesota
  12. Chicago
  13. Florida
  14. Arizona
  15. Colorado
  16. Vegas
  17. Dallas
  18. Montréal
  19. Columbus
  20. St. Louis
  21. Carolina
  22. Winnipeg
  23. Pittsburgh
  24. Nashville
  25. Toronto
  26. San Jose
  27. New York Islanders
  28. Washington
  29. Boston
  30. Calgary
  31. Tampa Bay

On November 1, the priority changes to the reverse of this year’s standings. And the higher priority team wins the claim if there is more than one claim filed.

It shouldn’t need to be said, but the Leafs are not in the market to add players. Unless they are unhappy with both of their choices for backup goalie, they have no openings.

It’s more likely that the Leafs lose a player. It’s important to remember that a team that claims a player on waivers can’t just slot them onto their AHL team. If they’re claiming them, they want them in the NHL.

The Seth Griffith scenario applies this year. You may recall that the Leafs acquired him on waivers from Boston and played him in the NHL for a time. They then waived him to send him to the Marlies and Florida claimed him. Florida played him in the NHL for a time and then waived him to send him to the AHL. At that point, Griffith had never cleared waivers. Because no one else put in a claim, Toronto was allowed not only to get him back, but he was deemed to have cleared, and they sent him to the Marlies where he finished the season.

This could happen this year, but the trick is your claim back must be the only claim made for that player in order to have him deemed to have cleared.

Waivers rules serve a purpose beyond giving us all headaches. The entire point is to keep a team like the Maple Leafs from signing a long list of NHL-capable players and keeping them all stocked in the AHL for when they might need them. It’s supposed to keep NHL players in the NHL. Unfortunately, sometimes it keeps them in the NHL in the press box. One of the reasons the list of potential Leafs depth is so long when their roster is likely to be short all year is that no single claim of a player can harm the team when they have so many extras.

With teams very, very cap-strapped this season, I’m predicting an active waiver wire as hard choices get made and teams that didn’t sign cheap depth in the summer have to go looking for it.

This is a handy tool: