NHL Waiver Primer

We're getting into the part of the preseason where we're already seeing player names appearing on waivers. In the next couple weeks, we're going to see a lot more names trickle down the waiver wire while teams trim rosters down to the eventual 23-man limit with which they'll start the season. With that in mind, I wanted to give a quick primer on waivers.

What are Waivers?

For starters, as far as we're working here, waivers are a process by which teams have to offer experienced players up for every team in the league to take before they're allowed to assign that player to a lower league. This prevents teams from being able to bury guys who deserve a spot on an NHL roster simply because they own that player's contract. A player either has to have played in enough NHL games or accrued enough professional experience before he's eligible for waivers. Any player without that level of experience is exempt.

If you're unsure about a certain player's waiver eligibility, the very best source for figuring that up is at Capgeek.com. Within each team's salary cap chart is a breakdown of waiver eligibility status for all players. A red-shaded box with an X in it shows players who are waiver eligible while green-shaded boxes with a checkmark show players who are still waiver exempt while also explaining the remaining years of service/games played requirements for that player to meet waiver eligibility). Here's the Red Wings' current Salary Cap Chart Page.

How do Waivers Work?

Before a team can send a player down, they have to file paperwork to place him on waivers with the league. The waiver list comes out at noon Eastern each day. Once a player has been placed on waivers, he remains there for 24 hours where any of the other 29 teams may submit a waiver claim for him. At noon the next day, if the player has no valid claims, then he has passed through waivers and may be assigned to a minor-league club.

A club doesn't HAVE to assign a player immediately after waivers though. Once a player has cleared waivers, the team may keep him on their roster for no more than 9 NHL games played or no more than 29 calendar days. If he plays in 10 games or is on the roster for 30 days, he will have to clear waivers again before being assigned.

Waiver Claim Order

Waiver claims are made directly to the league and aren't shared between teams, so you can have multiple teams putting in a claim on a single guy. If that's the case, then the league awards the team with the worst record (based on percentage of possible points earned and tiebroken first using lowest winning percentage using only regulation or overtime wins, then head-to-head record, and finally with goal differential). As of right now, and up until November 1st, the waiver claim order is set by the end-of-year standings from last season. Here's the full list.

Claim Order Team
1 Buffalo Sabres
2 Florida Panthers
3 Edmonton Oilers
4 Calgary Flames
5 New York Islanders
6 Vancouver Canucks
7 Carolina Hurricanes
8 Toronto Maple Leafs
9 Winnipeg Jets
10 Ottawa Senators
11 New Jersey Devils
12 Nashville Predators
13 Arizona Coyotes
14 Washington Capitals
15 Dallas Stars
16 Detroit Red Wings
17 Columbus Blue Jackets
18 Philadelphia Flyers
19 New York Rangers
20 Minnesota Wild
21 Los Angeles Kings
22 Montreal Canadiens
23 Tampa Bay Lightning
24 Chicago Blackhawks
25 Pittsburgh Penguins
26 San Jose Sharks
27 St. Louis Blues
28 Colorado Avalanche
29 Anaheim Ducks
30 Boston Bruins

Unlike draft order, a team doesn't hurt its waiver claim status by doing deeper in the playoffs, which is why the Kings get claims on people before four first-round flameouts.

The reason they keep the November 1st date is because it would be terribly unfair to see a powerhouse team get first waiver dibs on players simply because they had a rough run in their first 8 games or so.

For more quirks of the waiver process, I wrote a full piece on CBA Article 13 last year, which had a full breakdown of all the other minor rules surrounding the waiver process. Can can read it here.

Red Wings Waiver-Eligible Players

Here's the list of Detroit players who would have to clear waivers in order to be assigned to Grand Rapids before the start of the season who were either not roster regulars last year or who have a decent chance of ending up on waivers regardless:

Danny Cleary Jakub Kindl Louis-Marc Aubry
Joakim Andersson Kevin Porter Mitchell Callahan
Luke Glendening Thomas McCollum Landon Ferraro
Brian Lashoff Andy Miele Andrej Nestrasil

The chances for each vary wildly from not-terribly likely (Cleary) to almost-certain (Nestrasil). Roster-wise, the Wings have one player who is still waiver exempt with a very good chance at making the team and that is Tomas Jurco, who will reach waiver eligibility next season no matter how many games he plays in this one.

Stay tuned, we're going to see a ton of names go on waivers over the next two weeks. Most of them will clear without issue. Some of them will give teams a chance to bolster the bottoms of their lineups.