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Getting to Know the CBA - Episode 7: Waivers

Stevie Roxelle - @stevieroxelle - Biscuit Fox

Continuing on our eventually-but-not-for-a-long-time ending quest to get through the NHL's CBA, we jump back up to the meat of the document itself and re-establish the article-by-article order. We've covered the draft, free agency, SPCs, and arbitration. Now we head into the waivers process and the rules regarding loans to the minor leagues.

You can find the entire CBA here (PDF)

We've 11 pages and 23 subsections to cull down. Buckle up, getcha popcorn ready, hold onto yo butts, and strap in.

Article 13: Waivers and Loans of Players to Minor League Clubs

Once a player gets a certain level of experience playing professionally, he can't simply be buried in the AHL without first being offered a chance to stay at the NHL level with another club who would have him. Additionally, if a team wants to be rid of a player altogether for any of the reasons they're allowed to end his contract, they also must first offer his contract unconditionally to the entire league before they can carry through with this.

As we explored in Article 11, the only thing a player may do to stop the waiver process is invoke a no-movement clause if his contract has one. While a NMC can prevent him from having to accept an assignment to the AHL, it can't block him from being bought out.


Players start their careers automatically exempt from waiver rules. Once they hit a certain level of time passed/games played, they become waiver eligible. Here's the chart for time/experience.

Age Goalie Years Goalie Games Skater Years Skater Games
18 6 80 5 160
19 5 80 4 160
20 4 80 3 160
21 4 60 3 80
22 4 60 3 70
23 3 60 3 60
24 2 60 2 60
25+ 1 1 1 1

The games exemption trumps the years exemption, so if a guy plays two full seasons directly after the draft, he'd have to clear waivers in year three to be sent down.

The 18-19 rules also work a little differently here. If a player who is 18 or 19 plays 11 or more NHL games, the time is reduced to three years and will run regardless of whether that player who got 11 games at 18 goes back to juniors to play at 19. For goalies, it works the same way, except it lowers to four years instead of three.

For a good source on whether a player is or is not exempt from waivers, has a fantastic calculator tool you can use (can also be used from any individual player's page). Using it, you see that Tomas Tatar and Brian Lashoff are not waiver exempt because of the time spent after they signed their contracts (Tatar signed at 19 and Lashoff at 18). You can also see that Gustav Nyquist will become waiver eligible in just two more games (he's 23 now and has played in 58 total NHL games).

Waiver Claim Order

When a player is placed on waivers, all 29 other teams have the option to make a claim, provided they have the roster/contract/cap space to fit him. It's not exactly first come, first served though. If more than one team makes a claim to a player during the time he's eligible to be claimed, then the team who is currently worse in the standings gets first dibs. During the season, this is calculated by percentage of possible points earned and then breaks into various tiebreakers (lowest winning % excluding points earned in the shootout, head-to-head record against teams still tied, then worst goal differential).

The end-of-season rankings will be used throughout each summer and all the way up to November 1st each year. This helps at least partially allay the issue of a good team off to a slow start getting waiver preference just a few weeks into the season.

Expiration Dates

Waivers last for 24 hours from noon on the day they're filed to noon the next day. Once a player clears waivers, he may be loaned to the AHL, which is the currently-recognized minor league for the NHL. Only entry-level players can be sent to the ECHL without consent.

A Club can't waive a guy and then send him down at their convenience. Once a player clears, he must be loaned to the minor league before either 30 days passes or before he plays 10 more NHL games. If either of those things happen, he would have to clear waivers again in order to be eligible for loan to the AHL.

In the same definition, the 10 games/30 day timeframe defines when a player is on "recall". This comes into play only for the lone situation in which you're allowed to place an injured player on waivers. He continues to receive his Paragraph 1 salary and benefits until he's cleared.

Conditioning Loans

A player can be sent to the AHL on a conditioning loan with his consent without having to clear waivers. He can't spend more than 14 days on this conditioning loan though. He'll continue counting against the team's roster and cap limits. He can also be sent on a long term injury/illness exception where he won't count against the roster limit, but he can't be sent on one until he's been hurt for 14 days/6 games. The long-term loan can only last six days or three games, although a team can request an extension to be approved by the commissioner.

Movement Limits

If a player who is placed on waivers is deemed not physically fit to play, the commissioner may allow a claiming team to cancel the waiver claim and compel the removal of such a player from the waiver list (except in the rare circumstance listed above).

A club can't trade a player they claimed off waivers until after the playoffs unless they first offer him on the same terms to any other club who had made a waiver claim on him at the time he was originally made available.

If for some reason, a club loses a player to waivers and then later is the only club to claim him when he's placed back on waivers, they may loan him to the AHL immediately.

If a player who isn't on a club's reserve list or isn't an RFA plays in any league outside North America after the start of the NHL season, he would have to clear waivers before joining his new team (This is why Evgeni Nabokov, who was a UFA, got claimed by the Islanders when the Wings signed him out of Europe, but why Alex Radulov, who was on the Predators' reserve list when he came back for the playoffs after the KHL season didn't have to go through waivers first).

Waiver Prices

It's not exactly "free" to claim a player off waivers, but this part is never discussed because it really doesn't matter in the overall scheme of things. Clubs making a waiver claim actually have to "buy" the contract from the other team. For all unconditional waivers, that price is a mere $125. For all players under regular waivers, the price to pick a player up can range from the low end: $3,375 - all the way up to $90,000 to claim a goalie who hasn't completed more than two years's worth of play under one or more SPCs.

Player Pay/Lodging Considerations

A good portion of this article is dedicated to the specifics at play here. If you're interested in every in and out of how this works, section 13.12 is the place to go for that info. I'm going to oversimplify. The very next article goes into more specifics, as does Article 19.

When a team moves a player either up from or down to the AHL, they'll either provide him with a hotel room or give him the cash equivalent for 28 days while they're at home (it's moot on the road because team the team pays everybody's accommodations). This 28 days can be extended out to 56 if the team notifies the player in writing that they haven't decided whether he'd be considered a permanent fixture on the club.

The second half of the 56 day limit, the player may bring his significant other and get slightly nicer digs. If he's told to "find a place", then Article 14 kicks in. If he wants to find a place before then (and without the team's permission), then all liability falls on him. The Club can't prevent a player from buying a house in the new city, but they don't have to pay for him to move every 15-20 days if he's a fringe player.

The Trade Deadline and Player Movement

The Trade Deadline is set as the 40th day prior to the end of the regular season. For purposes of player movement, it also serves as a deadline for a different set of rules for loaning and recalling players.

After the deadline, no player may be loaned (sent down) unless he's first been called up under certain circumstances/limitations. Players can still be sent on Bona-Fide Long-Term Injury/Illness loans, but those can't be extended. Players under recall who spent less than 25% of the season and were injured at the trade deadline can also be sent down.

As for call-ups, teams are limited to four regular call-ups between the trade deadline and the end of the regular season, except in cases of emergency recall (the team has fewer than 2 goalies, 6 D-men, or 12 forwards healthy), or in cases when the players minor club is completely done with their season and playoffs.

Once the playoffs start, the rules stay roughly the same, except they're limited to only having either three or four players on their active roster who were recalled between the Trade Deadline and the end of the regular season (you can only have four of them if you used four of them during that time period). Emergency recalls and players recalled from teams whose seasons are over follow the same rules as above.

Additional Randomness

If a player is put on waivers, he can request permission to talk to other teams about their interest in claiming him, but his team has sole discretion to say no (meaning their denial doesn't have to fit the "reasonable" definition we've covered before).

There are two intentionally omitted sections in this article: 13.3 and 13.15 are purposefully blank. 13.3 was the portion that covered re-entry waivers in the last CBA, which were eliminated. 13.15 covered the Holiday Roster freeze. This is still a thing, but it's in Article 16. The old CBA had two different sections both covering the Holiday Roster Freeze. This one eliminates a redundancy by taking it out of Article 13.

If a player has to move thanks to team relocation or his being claimed in an expansion draft, he gets $6,000 on top of other expenses which would automatically be covered in such a situation. This section seems out of place here, but as long as it's somewhere, the NHLPA is happy.

There is specific wording saying a team can't trade a player who is on waivers because you bet your ass some GM would try that.

- - -

That's all for waivers and player movements. Next week, we'll cover Article 14, which lays out the rules for reimbursement and benefits for transferred players. It should be a rip-roaring thrill ride.