This week begins the 2021-22 campaign for the New Jersey Devils. The rookies will report to camp on September 15. On September 17 and 19, they will play Buffalo’s and Boston’s rookies in the Prospect Challenge in Buffalo. Soon after, the veterans will report for camp on September 22. The Devils’ six-game preseason will begin in Washington D.C. on September 29. This is the week where players and coaches will prepare in earnest for the regular season that starts on October 15. With a potentially tight race in the division, every game will count.
One of the common tasks of preseason is to determine the active roster for at least opening night. Teams are limited to 23 players on their roster, or three “extra” players in addition to the 20 that plays in a game. In order for players to be demoted to the American Hockey League, they may need to clear waivers. What this means is that a player has to be made available for the rest of the league for 24 hours. If no one claims them, then the player can be sent down to the minors. CapFriendly has an excellent FAQ about waivers; here are the main things to know about it:
- Being placed on waivers mean that a player is made available for all of the other NHL teams for 24 hours to claim. The order of teams is based on the overall standings at that time. If no one claims the player, then the player clears waivers and then can be properly demoted.
- If a player clears waivers and is called back up, then they are temporarily exempt for 30 days on the NHL active roster or 10 NHL games, which ever comes first.
- If a team does claim them, then the team who claims the player takes their contract.
- There is no waiver process for players being called up.
- This process has nothing to do with whether the player is signed to a one-way or two-way contract.
- The player does not even need to play a NHL game for a season to be used up for exemption status.
- The waiver exemption is based on the number of years of when the player signed their first NHL contract and how many games they played. Once either is met, they become eligible for waivers. Due to the COVID-19 shortened 2019-20 and 2021 seasons, the games played requirement is pro-rated for those two seasons.
The waiver status of a player can be a factor in deciding who makes the roster. Top players almost never end up going through this process. However, it is more likely that a depth player or a young player on the cusp of making it usually does go through waivers if they are to be sent down to the AHL. Sometimes they do get taken. Usually because a team needs the depth or they think the player can help them out on their team. Therefore, if there is a player who could lose their waiver exemption soon, then that could be a deciding factor over someone who is waiver exempt.
According to CapFriendly’s waivers calculator, here is the full list of every signed New Jersey Devils player who is waiver exempt and how long their exemption will last as of September 12, 2021:
When a player signs their NHL contract, then their clock begins on waiver status. The most recent signing, Chase Stillman, has a full five seasons left to be exempt from waivers. He also has 160 NHL games played. Stillman will lose his exemption in five seasons or 160 NHL games played, which ever comes first. He will not lose it in 2021-22.
In fact, the majority of the exempt players will not lose it in 2021-22. Last season’s list is cleared up now that the Devils traded Mikhail Maltsev; Brett Seney and Evan Cormier were let loose; Gilles Senn went to Switzerland; and Janne Kuokkanen and Yegor Sharangovich absolutely established themselves last season. It could be the 2023-24 season when more of them will need to clear waivers before going down to Utica. That is the current trajectory for Kevin Bahl, Nolan Foote, Reilly Walsh, Tyce Thompson, and Nikita Okhotiuk. Ty Smith too, but I think he stays and therefore plays his 103th game in 2022-23 and loses it then. So he is not a real concern for waivers in that sense. The Devils have plenty of flexibility for sending players down to Utica for this upcoming season.
There are three Devils who are entering their final season of being exempt from waivers: Fabian Zetterlund, Jeremy Groleau, and Nathan Schnarr. It is possible none of those three play a NHL game next season. Although, I would like Zetterlund to make a push in training camp now that Nathan Bastian is in Seattle and the team traded Nick Merkley and Mikhail Maltsev. There will be spots available at forward. Again, this is not a concern as they could end up in Utica and spend all of 2021-22 there.
There are only two players who will lose their exemption during this coming season. The Big Deal, Jack Hughes, will definitely lose it as this is his final season and he has 28 games left to play. Hughes will not be sent down. If he does, then something really wrong happened. The other player is Jesper Boqvist. Boqvist just needs to dress for ten games to lose the exemption. This is a bit more concerning.
After the signings of Dougie Hamilton, Jonathan Bernier, and Tomas Tatar as well as the acquisition of Ryan Graves, a bottom-six center role is now the team’s most questionable role. I wrote about this before. Mike did so as well, most recently arguing for Tyler Bozak to be brought into the fold. Boqvist is among the internal options for the Devils for this position. However, Boqvist has not performed well at all in his time in New Jersey so far. When he was on the ice last season, the Devils were wrecked in 5-on-5 play per Natural Stat Trick. Boqvist was kept to 10:29 of 5-on-5 ice time per game as his special teams usage was incredibly small (13 minutes total of PP time, not even a minute total shorthanded). Therefore, his awful 5-on-5 on-ice rates were the sum of his work. Boqvist will turn 23 at the end of next month and he has 63 games of NHL experience. My understanding is that he has done quite well in the AHL. Essentially, Boqvist’s performances so far may not warrant further time in the NHL.
However, the Devils have to be careful with how much they use Boqvist. If he dresses for 10 games and shows that he could use more seasoning in the AHL, then he could be a real risk of being claimed. While he has not done well in the NHL with the Devils, Boqvist is still a 23-year old player on his entry level contract. The former second round draft pick in 2017 can play all three forward positions. Another team can make a case that a change of scenery could be what he needs. It is a low cost flier a team can take. I see that risking Boqvist to waivers is a risk. I could argue that a team could put a claim on him, which would mean the Devils lose him for nothing.
The best solution for the Devils would be for Boqvist to have a really good camp and take a roster spot in preseason with good performances. Better performances from the player will not only ensure he starts this season in New Jersey, but that New Jersey would not need to demote him. That would make his waiver status moot. Unfortunately, those past 63 games from Boqvist suggest that is unlikely. And that’s why me, Mike, and other fans are scratching their heads over what to do at the one center position not penciled in by Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, or Michael McLeod.
Of course, Boqvist could not impress and the Devils send him down to Utica for 2021-22, and make 2022-23 a make or break season for Boqvist on a one-season cheap deal. That is also an option that does not make his waiver status an issue. It is not a good option. I prefer that the Devils players perform as well as they could.
The good news is that with respect to waiver status, Boqvist is the only one with an actual concern. The majority of the exempt Devils will be exempt throughout this next season. It will not matter for two of them, Hughes and Smith, as the Devils will not be demoting either. Depending on what the Devils do, if anything, about the center position may lead to Boqvist being centrally involved in a training camp battle. There, his status may play a role as to what happens with Boqvist for this season. As would his performances in practices, drills, scrimmages, and preseason games. Those would matter more and, again, if Boqvist does really well, then I would think the decision would be easier.
Now I want to know what you think. Do you think Boqvist’s waiver status will become a factor of making the team? How many of the waiver exempt Devils will get some time in the NHL for 2021-22? Who do you think it will be? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about waiver statuses ahead of training camp in the comments. Thank you for reading.