As you have probably heard if you have working eyes or ears these days, the National Hockey League’s trade deadline is rapidly approaching. On March 1, teams have to make a ton of quick decisions as the door to make transactions slams shut.
The Calgary Flames are one of the teams who have to not only figure out their options for the rest of this season, but also project out what their plans are for next season. Waiver eligibility could be a big factor in the decision-making.
Why Waivers Are Important
If your star players, your highly-paid guys, are the entree of the meal that is your hockey club, your waiver eligible players are your side dishes. You’re not quite ready to make a meal out of them yet, but they’re important for rounding out your team.
Now, waiver exempt players are usually players on their entry-level deals and they can be sent back and forth from the minors without a worry. Once they’ve used up their exemption period – which is a set number of games played or years pro depending on the age when they signed – then they’re offered up to the NHL’s 29 other teams before they can go down.
If you have a few spots on your club for waiver exempt youngsters, you can try out kids in specific roles and send them back for more seasoning if they’re not great yet.
Waiver Eligible Soon
Two Flames roster players could become waiver eligible before the end of this season. Sam Bennett is waiver eligible after 15 more games and Garnet Hathaway is waiver eligible after 21 more games. Both players become waiver eligible when next season begins either way. Bennett is a full-time NHLer, so waivers aren’t really something to consider. In the case of Hathaway, he’s good enough to be in the NHL but seemingly not quite good enough yet to play every game.
Waiver Eligible Next Season
As soon as next season begins, minor leaguer Ryan Culkin and tweeners Brett Kulak, Emile Poirier and Hunter Shinkaruk will all be waiver eligible. Due to their struggles this season I’m not entirely convinced that Culkin and Poirier will still be in the organization next season, but regardless, waivers are something to think about because they limit a team’s ability to ferry a young player back and forth from the AHL.
Matthew Tkachuk will be waiver eligible at some point next season, basically as soon as he’s played 160 regular season games. Like Bennett, he’s a full-timer so it’s not really much of an issue.
Waiver Eligible Eventually
A lot of youngsters are a ways away from using up their waiver exemption.
Waiver eligible at the beginning of the 2018-19 season are Austin Carroll, Keegan Kanzig, Morgan Klimchuk, Kenney Morrison, Daniel Pribyl, David Rittich and Hunter Smith. Waiver eligible at the beginning of the 2019-20 season are Rasmus Andersson, Jon Gillies, Mark Jankowski, Andrew Mangiapane and Brett Pollock. At the beginning of 2020-21 waivers kick in for Oliver Kylington and Mason McDonald, while Nick Schneider won’t require waivers until 2021-22.
In terms of potential auditions for NHL jobs next season, waiver exemptions for Rittich and Gillies would allow both to be tried out as back-ups in Calgary if desired. Similarly, Klimchuk and Jankowski could be tested out in bottom six roles for the Flames in the future without fear of losing them on waivers upon their AHL returns. The same goes for promising blueliner Kylington.
Sum It Up
Waivers will probably factor into the decision-making that the Flames make going forward, particularly as the Flames figure out what to do with players like Kulak, Poirier, Shinkaruk and Hathaway that have yet to really cement themselves as full-time, everyday NHLers. Bear them in mind as the club works their way towards the trade deadline.