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Waiver exemption and the Maple Leafs call-up options

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Navigating calling up replacement players with 45 cents in cap space begins with understanding waiver exemption.

NHL: SEP 23 Preseason - Maple Leafs at Canadiens
Will he be back?
Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Maple Leafs have 23 healthy players on their roster right now, and everyone they signed this summer as a depth player (except Nick Shore) has cleared waivers and been assigned to the Marlies. The Marlies, we should remember, train one icesheet over at the Corporate Name Centre in Etobicoke. They also play against teams in a much more confined geographical area than the Leafs do. They aren’t in California when you need to call up a player.

These circumstances make it easier for the Leafs to handle what will become a short-roster season. That private jet helps too.

Waivers don’t exist to give sadistic lawyers something to make arcane rules about. And almost all of the CBA makes sense, at least as a compromise to achieve competing goals of the parties to it. Waivers are supposed to help NHL-calibre players get NHL jobs, and the Maple Leafs have a lot of NHL-experienced replacement players.

Because all the depth options on the Leafs have cleared waivers, they are currently waiver exempt. Keeping them all exempt isn’t absolutely necessary, but it helps avoid surprises later on in the season when teams have injuries which give them roster and cap space to consider making a claim. How a team manages call-ups can keep their options open if they’re careful. We call them call-ups, the CBA calls them recalls, so let’s learn how they work.

Regular and Emergency Recalls

The following rules apply from now until the trade deadline. We’ll worry about the complex set of rules governing post-deadline recalls when the time comes.

Clearing waivers gives a player waiver exemption which expires when:

(i) is not Loaned to a minor league club, or is Recalled from a minor league club (except on emergency Recall) and remains on an NHL roster for thirty (30) days (cumulative) or plays ten (10) NHL Games (cumulative), or

(ii) is Recalled from a minor league club on emergency Recall and plays in ten (10) NHL Games (cumulative) while on emergency Recall. For purposes of clarity, games played while on regular Recall shall not count towards the ten (10) NHL Games in this subsection (ii).

Article 13.5 of the CBA

To put that another way, which is how we usually speak of it: A player on a regular recall can play nine games or be on the 23-man (active) roster for 29 days before he needs waivers to be returned to the AHL.

Emergency recalls can only be used when there are actual emergency conditions. The team must have less than 12 forwards, six defenders and two goalies to recall the player. They have to specify which player who is injured, ill or suspended is being replaced on the form they file with the league.

The crucial difference between emergency recalls and regular recalls is that as soon as the emergency is over, the player on emergency recall has to be returned to the AHL or converted to a regular recall. This matters because the games played while on regular recall and the days on the active roster begin to accumulate on the regular recall counter.

Both of these games-played counters and the regular recall days counter are cumulative for the entire season. By carefully using the recalls, it’s possible to play a player for 18 games without them losing waiver exemption.

Cap Friendly tracks the type of recall on their transactions page.

Given the total number of plausible recall options the Leafs have, they could go all season filling injury needs at will and never risk a single player on waivers.

Note: it’s obviously possible to jump a player’s emergency status from replacing hurt player one to hurt player two. Trevor Moore spend 53 games on Emergency Recall last season.

Waiver Exemption expiry from games played

The Maple Leafs have a small group of waiver exempt players who are currently in the AHL, and two who are currently on the NHL roster. Many of these players will lose that exemption after a certain number of games played. Those who cannot play a full NHL season and remain exempt are:

  • Mason Marchment - 60 games played (games on SOIR do not count)
  • Egor Korshkov - 60
  • Teemu Kivihalme - 60
  • Pierre Engvall - 70
  • Adam Brooks - 80
  • Jesper Lindgren - 80
  • Ian Scott - 80
  • Joseph Woll - 80
  • Mac Hollowell and Joe Duszak - 80 and 70 (both are in the ECHL)

The emergency recall rules discussed in this post shouldn’t be confused with the cap relief rules for emergency conditions. That’s something similar, but different, and I’ll cover that in the next post that discusses exactly how IR, LTIR and emergency conditions interact.