The 2018-19 season is firmly in the rear-view mirror for the Calgary Flames. Thus, focus has turned to planning and preparations for the 2019-20 season. In terms of potential impacts of the waiver wire, their roster is in surprisingly strong shape.
A quick rundown
For those unfamiliar, waivers refer to a team’s ability to send a player to the American Hockey League without risking losing them to other NHL clubs. Think of it like the last piece of pizza: the waiver wire is offering the rest of the league the pizza before you eat it yourself. (To be clear: it has nothing to do with one-way or two-way contracts, that’s an entirely different CBA wrinkle.)
Waiver exemption is based on how old a player was when they signed their entry-level contract and expires after a set number of NHL games played or pro seasons played. Generally-speaking, players are waiver exempt for the entirety of their ELC – goaltenders for their ELC plus one season – but there are exceptions that are usually based on age. For the sake of our analysis, we’re ignoring the games played cap in favour of what season the Flames will need to worry about waivers, and focusing on Flames players under contract (or that are pending restricted free agents).
If you’re curious, almost all unrestricted free agents the Flames would potentially sign would require waivers to go to the AHL anyway.
Required: David Rittich (RFA), Jon GIllies
Exempt: Mason McDonald (RFA; until 2020-21), Nick Schneider (until 2021-22), Tyler Parsons (until 2021-22), Artyom Zagidulin (until 2021-22)
Rittich and Gillies both graduated to being waiver eligible recently; Rittich by virtue of exceeding his games played cap and Gillies by virtue of exceeding his pro seasons cap.
It seems likely that the Flames will have a National Hockey League veteran of some stripe playing in tandem with Rittich in Calgary, so Gillies will likely be put on waivers at the end of training camp and sent to Stockton. Beyond him, the Flames have four waiver-exempt minor leaguers in their system – though if you’re doing the math here, it seems probable that McDonald doesn’t get a qualifying offer and is cut loose simply due to the numbers game.
Required: Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie, Travis Hamonic, Noah Hanifin, Michael Stone, Rasmus Andersson, Andrew Nielsen, Rinat Valiev (RFA)
Exempt: Oliver Kylington (until 2020-21), Josh Healey (RFA, until 2020-21), Juuso Valimaki (until 2021-22), Alexander Yelesin (until 2022-23), Carl-Johan Lerby (until 2022-23)
Andersson became waiver eligible after the 2018-19 season.
This is pretty tidy work by the Flames management group, all told. The five everyday “regular” defensemen require waivers, as do Stone (who would be a serviceable sixth or seventh defender), Nielsen and Valiev (who would both be solid AHL depth). The prospect defenders are all fairly staggered, so you can imagine a scenario where the Flames move out an established body each season as the youngsters become waiver eligible (or move out youngsters as assets to fix other parts of the roster).
Required: Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund, Matthew Tkachuk (RFA), Michael Frolik, James Neal, Mark Jankowski, Sam Bennett (RFA), Austin Czarnik, Derek Ryan, Andrew Mangiapane (RFA), Curtis Lazar (RFA), Buddy Robinson, Kerby Rychel (RFA), Brett Pollock (RFA), Alan Quine (RFA)
Exempt: Spencer Foo (RFA, until 2020-21), Ryan Lomberg (RFA, until 2020-21), Dillon Dube (until 2021-22), Matthew Phillips (until 2021-22), Luke Philp (until 2021-22), Adam Ruzicka (until 2022-23), Martin Pospisil (until 2022-23), Glenn Gawdin (until 2022-23), Dmitry Zavgorodniy (until 2023-24)
Mangiapane, Jankowski and Tkachuk all became waiver eligible at the end of the 2018-19 season after exceeding their season exemption cap.
As with the blueline group, the succession of waiver eligibility for the young forwards seems pretty clean. Foo and Lomberg may be destined to be NHL/AHL tweeners, but the waiver statuses of the remaining seven youngsters are spread out enough as to provide the Flames with a good amount of wiggle room.
It’s kind of crazy that Dube and Valimaki – who are almost good enough to be full-time NHLers – are waiver exempt for the next two full seasons (barring them playing a ton of NHL games in the interim).
Long story short: the Flames aren’t likely to need to make any “panic” trades or other moves for the sake of waivers. The players that need waivers are the players that (a) are full-time NHLers or (b) are players they probably wouldn’t lose too much sleep over losing on the waiver wire anyway.