clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The New Jersey Devils Who Are & Are Not Waiver Exempt for 2018-19

As training camp and preseason are imminent, this post looks at who in the New Jersey Devils organization are eligible and ineligible for waivers in 2018-19 with the help of CapFriendly’s Waiver Calculator. This does have an impact on the defense.

New Jersey Devils v New York Islanders
Steven Santini (right) is no longer waiver exempt. This presents an issue of sorts for the Devils.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Training camp for the New Jersey Devils and 30 other NHL teams that are not the New Jersey Devils will begin this week. The preseason will begin for the Devils next Monday on September 17 with a pair of games. With the regular starting in less than a month, this is a short time for players to get prepared and convince the coaches of what they can do. This is also a short time for the coaching staff and management to identify who should play where. One of the factors that may help guide their decision making is their waiver status.

While every NHL team has an affiliated team in the American Hockey League, the top minor hockey league, players cannot freely go to the AHL under most circumstances. Most players are subject to waivers before they can be re-assigned to the AHL. CapFriendly has a very good FAQ on the specific requirements and common exemptions to the waiver process. Here are the basics: A waiver-eligible player has to be placed on waivers for 24 hours before re-assignment. During that time, any of the other 29 teams can claim the rights to that player. There is a small fee (less than $100,000) in doing so. The point is that another team can get the player for very little and the original team gets absolutely nothing in that case. If no one claims the player within 24 hours, then the team who has his rights keeps him - and then the player can be re-assigned. There are no waivers to move up to the NHL just to be able to move them down. There are some common exceptions involving injuries, conditioning, and previous waiver clearances. For the most part, no team should give up talented players to another team for nothing.

However, not all players are subject to waivers. A player has to have been on a NHL contract for a set number of years based on their age when they signed the deal and/or have played in a number of NHL games (regular season and playoffs) before becoming subject to the waiver process. In practice, younger players and those who just signed in the NHL are often exempt from waivers. This means they can be re-assigned immediately. As such, they are more likely to be sent down - which makes sense as those players tend to struggle to crack or stay on a NHL roster. Better that they play somewhere than sit in the press box.

(Aside as an reminder: I did not mention two-way or one-way contracts because they are irrelevant. Two-way contracts have nothing to do with waivers; it only has to do with how a player is being paid between the NHL and AHL. This is a common misconception. )

CapFriendly has an excellent waivers calculator that states when a player will become waiver-eligible by season and by number of games played. I used the calculator to go through the 2018-19 Devils to highlight where this may be a factor.

Goaltenders

Cory Schneider, Keith Kinkaid, and Eddie Lack are definitely waiver eligible by both age and games played. Akira Schmid and Gilles Senn are not signed with the Devils and are therefore not relevant to this at the moment. This leaves two goalies: Mackenzie Blackwood and Cam Johnson.

2018-19 Devils Goalie Waiver Ineligible List
2018-19 Devils Goalie Waiver Ineligible List
CapFriendly Waiver Calculator

Both are likely to be the main goalies in Binghamton. When Schneider does return to New Jersey after fully recovering from hip surgery, Lack may join them. While eligible for waivers, I doubt Lack will be picked up by anyone. As for these two, they’re going to be able to move freely up and down for this season and next season. Given that Johnson is pretty much brand new to pro hockey and Blackwood’s AHL numbers so far, I do not see much of a waiver-risk if they end up in New Jersey and later have to go back to the AHL.

Forwards

Let’s go with forwards first because this is not so much of an issue. Almost all of the “big” names up front are subject to waivers: Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac, Marcus Johansson, and so forth. Even depth players like Stefan Noesen, Blake Coleman, and Brian Boyle are waiver-eligible - which should help secure their spot in New Jersey. Drew Stafford, who will be in camp on a PTO, is also waiver eligible given his experience. Whenever Miles Wood will sign, he would be waiver-eligible as he played his third season of waiver-ineligibility last season. In other words, most of the New Jersey forwards would have to clear waivers if they are sent down. I doubt most of them would be in 2018-19.

It is definitely worth noting that the organization has some AHL-veterans that may be called up that are also subject to waivers. Nick Lappin, Kurtis Gabriel, Blake Pietila, and Eric Tangradi are all waiver-eligible. Lappin and Pietila were called up players in the past and both Tangradi and Gabriel have had some runs in the NHL too. Again, the risk may be minimal since they are more or less AHL players. Unless a team really likes what they saw out of any of them, I do not think they would be plucked off waivers. But that may impact how they are called up in 2018-19.

So who among the forwards are ineligible for waivers? Here’s the full list:

2018-19 Devils Forwards Waiver Ineligible List
2018-19 Devils Forwards Waiver Ineligible List
CapFriendly Waiver Calculator

I can tell you that Pavel Zacha and Nico Hischier do not need to worry about this. Zacha has been consistently with New Jersey in the last two seasons. Despite some struggles, he was not demoted. I do not think that becoming waiver eligible by November of this coming season is a concern. Hischier is way too good to have that even be considered, so as long as he is healthy, he will become waiver eligible after 2018-19 too. Jesper Bratt is a more interesting case. While he was bad in the second half of 2017-18 and played himself out of the lineup at points, he was not sent down even though he totally could have. With a fairly high games played requirement on top of two years, Bratt remains an option to go to Binghamton. I think the Devils think well enough of his talent that they see him in the NHL, but if he struggles early on, then do not be totally surprised if he’s sent down for a bit. This training camp and preseason is a good opportunity for Bratt to remind everyone why he took a NHL spot last season.

This training camp and preseason is a bigger opportunity for John Quenneville, then here’s another one. He cannot possibly play 146 games, but he will be at the level of a Lappin or Pietila from a waivers-standpoint (and a career standpoint) after this one. He’s been with the organization long enough that he’s not really a prospect of the future. It really is now-or-never for JQ.

As for other players, most of the incoming pros have plenty of time and games before waivers will become a concern. Since Kevin Rooney is still waiver ineligible for 2018-19 and will have a lot of games before that ends, I would not be surprised if he gets a few more call ups than the likes of Lappin, Pietila, Gabriel, or Tangradi. Being able to move freely up and down is a plus for potential call-up players. Assuming the ask is to just fill in a few minutes and not be terrible, Rooney may get a chance or two to do just that. While I don’t think those four AHLers are at a huge risk for being taken off waivers, why risk it at all if you do not have to do so?

Defensemen

Now here’s a trickier situation. Steve Santini started 2017-18 with New Jersey and played alongside Andy Greene for a couple of months. As he was overwhelmed, he was scratched several times before being sent down. New Jersey could do that easily as he was waiver ineligible. That ended last season; Santini is now subject to waivers. And there would be a real risk of losing him if he is ever on waivers. Santini is still young, he’s pretty mobile for the style of game he plays, and he can bolster the bottom end of a defensive corps for several teams. Combined with the low cost of waivers, I can see a team snatching him up if he is on them in 2018-19 or beyond.

The other notably young defenseman on last season’s team, Will Butcher, proved he was a NHL player right away and secured his spot in New Jersey quickly. Not that Butcher would be sent down, since he appeared in over 70 games, he is now subject to waivers too. Ditto for 23-year old Mirco Mueller, who played in his fifth NHL season last season - he is now waiver-eligible. The other four defensemen that are still Devils have seen their exempt status end in the past. While Mueller has not done much in the NHL, that he can skate and has shown flashes of talent make me also think it would be risky to place him on waivers too.

In other words, the Devils have seven defensemen that are all subject to waivers now. For that reason, I expect the Devils to at least carry seven defensemen to at least start the season. This will make preseason more important for them as it could determine who is a regular and who will be rotated in and out of the lineup more often. In a way, John Hynes did that at the start of last season. It did not carry on throughout 2017-18; namely because the Devils could and did send Santini down without an issue. They may have to do a rotation to keep everyone happy (and on their toes) provided all seven are available. This reality will also make it harder for another defenseman in camp to make their case of making the New Jersey roster:

2018-19 Devils Defensemen Waiver Ineligible List
2018-19 Devils Defensemen Waiver Ineligible List
CapFriendly Waiver Calculator

The waiver situation for d-men in New Jersey is particularly bad news for Egor Yakovlev and Michael Kapla. Kapla was signed to a large entry-level contract out of college and has been seasoned for two seasons in the AHL. He has one season left of being waiver-ineligible and he could end up being in the AHL again due to the lack of space. It is even rougher with Yakovlev. The Devils signed him from one of the KHL’s most successful teams. I would think that part of the pitch to get him to sign was an opportunity to play in New Jersey. Since he is 26, if he steps on the ice in even just one game with New Jersey, then he will become subject to waivers. So unless the Devils are willing to risk somebody or he ends up struggling a lot in camp, this may not turn out like how either side expected it back when the deal was signed. Unless the Devils are willing to start with eight defensemen or make some room, these two are working from the outside looking in.

While they have more time before becoming waiver eligible, the status of waivers among the defense may lead the Devils to keeping Colby Sissons and Ty Smith away from New Jersey at the moment. That may be fine. Smith was literally just drafted and another year in Spokane in the Western Hockey League would not be a big deal. Sissons is turning pro after a successful career with Swift Current; getting used to the pro game may be necessary for him regardless. Short of being rather impressive in camp and in preseason, the lack of room up top makes it more likely that neither will surprisingly make the roster in 2018-19.

Lastly, the Devils did ink Eric Gryba and John Ramage to two-way deals. Both have had some experience in the NHL. Both are also eligible for waivers. Like with Lappin, Pietila, Gabriel, and Tangradi, I doubt they would be at a lot of risk of being claimed on waivers if they are ever called up. But given that the Devils have some waiver-ineligible defenders also set to start in Binghamton (Yakovlev for a game, Kapla for a season, Sissons for two seasons), it would not be a total surprise if they are passed over. Of course, if the Devils carry seven or more defensemen, then they may not need a call-up at all.

Overall

Waivers are not the be-all, end-all decision as to who will and will not make a team out of training camp and preseason. But it is a factor that is considered. It impacts their roster flexibility. That flexibility will come into play as there will be injuries and there will be situations where support from the affiliate will be needed during a NHL season. Understanding who can be called up and demoted without having a 24-hour lead time where they can be taken by another team is something all NHL teams should be aware of.

In the case of the 2018-19 Devils, they should be fine in net and up front at forward. Defense is a more difficult situation since their top seven defensemen must clear waivers before being sent down. All seven have at least something to contribute at the NHL, so there would be a real risk of losing a player on waivers. To that end, I think all seven will at least start in NJ. If Yakovlev does make it into a game, then that makes eight although I could not tell you if other teams would want him on waivers. That he’s here on a one-season contract and could easily go back to the KHL may dissuade teams. Still, the blueline is fairly inflexible as it stands.

What do you make of the waiver situation for the team as we know it? Who do you think this impacts the most? Will it be a significant factor in deciding who will be on the roster in Sweden on October 6? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the Devils and their waiver status in the comments.