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The Waiver Exempt New Jersey Devils Players for the 2022-23 Season

Preseason is the perfect time to be aware of which New Jersey Devils players are exempt from waivers for the upcoming season. This post goes into who they are, how much time and games are left on their exemption, and who has the pressure to perform in camp because of it.

New Jersey Devils v Colorado Avalanche
78 games until he’s eligible. I say he...does it?
Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

Training camp has begun for the 2022-23 New Jersey Devils. The 2022 Preseason games will start on this coming Monday. There are a lot of players and only 23 active roster spots. It is time for what has become an annual tradition here at All About the Jersey. It is time to see which players in the organization are exempt from waivers for this coming season.

One of the factors in determining the opening night roster for the Devils is a player’s waiver status. 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 if they are eligible. 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. If they are exempt, then they can be demoted without going through waivers. It can make a difference between someone making the roster for the beginning of the season and someone starting in 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 seasons since when the player signed their first NHL contract - which varies by age - and how many games they played. Once either is met, they become eligible for waivers.

Since this past season, four players currently in the organization lost their waiver exemption: Jack Hughes, Jesper Boqvist, Fabian Zetterlund, and Jeremy Groleau. The Big Deal is simply not going to be demoted and so he lost his exemption after playing in 28 games last season. Groleau has yet to appear in the NHL and he may not ever do so; however, if and when he is to be sent down, he will have to go through waivers.

Boqvist lost his exemption nine games into the season and he represents an edge case. While he ended up blossoming a bit last season, his spot in the lineup may not be guaranteed depending on the other forwards in this year’s camp. He will need to establish his worth in preseason games. It would be in the Devils’ best interest that he does as a poor camp may mean discussing whether to send him down and risk losing him, or keeping him around as an extra. The pressure is also on for Fabian Zetterlund. His exemption ended with last season. While he was excellent in the season’s final month in 2021-22, there was so little to play for then. It does not guarantee a spot on this season’s team and, like Boqvist, he will have to prove his worth to stay in New Jersey. Also like Boqvist, a poor camp may put the Devils in a difficult spot as to risk losing an otherwise capable AHL scorer / NHL fourth-line winger for nothing. Knowledge of a player’s waiver exemptions does matter for those players on a proverbial bubble of making the NHL team. I would argue that these two have a lot more to prove in camp than pretty much anyone else from this standpoint.

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 23, 2022:

Waiver exempt players signed with the Devils as of September 23, 2022.
Waiver exempt players signed with the Devils as of September 23, 2022.
CapFriendly Waivers Calculator

Pretty much all of the players in this table will be exempt for waivers for the majority of this season. Simon Nemec has the longest timeline as he was just drafted and signed a few months ago. It could be a reason why he gets sent down to Utica ahead of some other defenders since he can without getting claimed. Out of this whole group, Dawson Mercer may be the only one to actually lose it during the 2022-23 season. That would require him to play 78 games first. I highly doubt that would be an issue. If he plays that much - which is very possible as he played 82 games last season - then the Devils are likely going to keep him in New Jersey as long as they can. Should he fall short of 78 games, then he will lose it for sure in the 2023-24 season. Given that Mercer has been a top-nine forward and often in the top-six as a rookie, his exemption going away after 78 games, which ever comes first, is just a footnote. He’s a NHL player.

It is theoretically possible that Nico Daws, Akira Schmid, Brian Halonen, Jack Dugan, Tyce Thompson, Reilly Walsh, and Aarne Talvitie all lose their exemption before the end of 2022-23 since their exemptions have less than 82 games. I will gently suggest that something went wrong (or really, really, right) if any of them play as many games to lose their exemption. We may see a couple of games from some of them in New Jersey. That could be fine. But over 60 in the case of the skaters or 35 from Daws or 54 from Schmid? Not so much.

For Dugan, Thompson, Walsh, Kevin Bahl, Nolan Foote, and Nikita Okhotiuk, this coming season will be their last with the waiver exemption. This would make this coming preseason to be at least somewhat important for them. If they are not going to show to management that they are at least close to a NHL level, then management may need to consider how they fit in the future. Do they get a second contract? Possibly. (Note: Okhotiuk and Foote’s ELCs do have another season left; Thompson’s contract becomes a one-way deal next season.) does Does it mean that there will be a spot for them in New Jersey in the future? Maybe, but they will have to be a whole lot better. If 2022-23 ends up being another “growing” season for these players, then they better be ready to bear the fruits of being a NHL player in next year’s camp. I do not think it is an accident that the Devils have given games to most of these players - Dugan excepted - over the last two seasons to see where they are in development. Whether they can be part of the Devils is right now or, at worst, in the near future, the time to show that is right now in camp for those players. But, it is not now-or-never for them. They have some more time that Zetterlund and Boqvist do not have due to their exemptions lasting for one more season.

Time marches on regardless. The flexibility of the waiver exemption could play a role in terms of who starts this season in New Jersey. As well as who gets called up on a non-emergency basis, since a demotion would require waivers without the exemption. As the Devils continue to draft players and sign UDFAs, they will provide the roster flexibility between the minors and the NHL upon going pro. A good part of that is still there for this coming season with Walsh, Thompson, Bahl, Foote, and Okhotiuk. But with Zetterlund and Boqvist losing their exemptions for this season and other depth positions filled with waiver-eligible players (e.g. McLeod, Bastian, Smith), it will not last. Again, time marches on.

What do you make of the waiver-exempt Devils for this coming season? Does this sway your opinion on who needs to do well in preseason? Or who gets a call up in this coming season? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the waiver-exempt Devils for 2022-23 in the comments. Thank you for reading.