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Taxi Squad 2.0: understanding the second iteration of this Covid-era tool

The NHL learned some lessons from the first use of the Taxi Squad.

NHL: DEC 11 Blackhawks at Maple Leafs
Get ready to practice!
Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Taxi Squads are back, so let’s learn what they are and what the new rules are. The first thing to remember is that the initial intent is to have this be temporary. Taxi Squads are set to dissolve on the date of each team’s last game before the All-Star Break. Their main purpose is to provide some extra players on hand for practices and emergency call-ups.

What a Taxi Squad Isn’t

Players on the squad are not in the NHL. They are considered to be in the AHL for purposes of waivers, salary and most other rules. There are some exceptions, but the most basic thing to realize is that players on the Taxi Squad may not appear in an NHL game and they do not count against the salary cap.

Size

The first iteration of the squad had a minimum number of players who must be on it. This time around, there is no requirement to do that. So a team can choose not to use the squad at all. This is a good thing, since no matter what the rules are, the squad means minor-league players sit around not playing for long periods of time. Less of that is better.

The maximum size this season is six players.

Eligibility

Many teams got creative last season with using the squad to bury some salary, bank cap space between games, etc. all while keeping players available for NHL practices. The following players are not eligible for the squad:

i) All Players who are a) on an NHL Active Roster, Injured Reserve or designated NonRoster as of December 22, 2021 (other than by virtue of an Emergency Recall) and b) are exempt from Regular Season Waivers and c) who have been on an NHL roster (including the Injured Reserve List and COVID-19 Protocol) for 75 percent or more of the days of the Regular Season up to and including Wednesday, December 22, 2021 (i.e., has been on an NHL roster for 54 days or more between October 12, 2021 and December 22, 2021); and

ii) All Players who are a) on an NHL Active Roster, Injured Reserve or designated NonRoster as of December 22, 2021 (other than by virtue of an Emergency Recall) and b) are exempt from Regular Season Waivers and c) who participated in 16 of their Club’s last 20 games played up to Wednesday, December 22, 2021. For clarity, for purposes of this provision, a goaltender who dresses for a game shall be deemed to have participated in such game.

This section applies just to players exempt from waivers, so for the Leafs that’s Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren. Alex Steeves is currently on the NHL roster, and is exempt, but he is on an emergency recall. Joe Woll hasn’t been on for enough days, and Ian Scott has never come off SOIR (Season-Opening Injured Reserve).

So, for our purposes, the thing to remember is that Timothy Liljegren is NHL or AHL, no squad for him. But Joe Woll is currently on the squad.

The second important point is that players may only stay on the squad for 20 days (not games).

Recalls

In order to play in an NHL game, a player must be on the NHL active roster. That’s not the Taxi Squad. To recall a player from the squad, it works exactly the same as if that player was on the Marlies in terms of roster and cap space on the Leafs. Except for emergency recalls.

An emergency recall happens when the team’s roster of players able to play in a game dips below a certain level because of injuries or, now, Covid protocol absences.

A Roster Emergency exists if the playing roster has fewer than 12 forwards, six defenders or two goalies. In the normal CBA world, a team must play at least one game shorthanded in order to declare a Roster Emergency, and recall a player who does not count against the salary cap. These rules have been changed for the entire remainder of this season back to last season’s version. They don’t expire at the All-Star Break.

The allowed salary of a player recalled under a Roster Emergency has been raised to $1 million. If the emergency is caused by a team having less than two goalies on the active roster, they can recall a goalie immediately without playing short first. The EBUG is no more, essentially.

If the Roster Emergency brings the team below 12 forwards or six defenders, and the cause is Covid Protocol (not injury), then the team may recall a skater on an emergency basis without playing shorthanded first.

The Executive Summary

  • Squads are six players, no minimum
  • Squadies are not in the NHL for cap purposes
  • Players moved from the NHL to the squad will need to clear waivers if they are not exempt
  • Players moved from the squad to the AHL or the AHL to the squad will never require waivers
  • The squad can’t be used for clever cap schemes
  • Squads can’t be used to stockpile waivers exempt players
  • Players can only be on the squad for 20 days
  • Roster Emergencies are easier to solve with free callups
  • Goalie recalls get special rules

The Maple Leafs Taxi Squad

The original six were:

  • Kyle Clifford
  • Filip Král
  • Alex Biega
  • Carl Dahlström
  • Joey Anderson
  • Joe Woll

Cap Friendly lists everyone but Anderson as moving onto the squad on December 26. Anderson was moved on December 27, so the days start counting down from there.

On December 28, the Maple Leafs made some moves:

Which means Kristiāns Rubīns take’s Woll’s place.