by PuckStopsHere on 09/30/08 at 04:56 PM ET
During the salary capped era, many of the bigger named players placed on waivers are waived because they have a bad contract. That contract is what prevents them from being claimed by any other team (at least until they hit re-entry waivers).
This was seen when the Anaheim Ducks waived Mathieu Schneider. Schneider is clearly a talented defenceman. In fact, he was ranked in the 2007 Hockey News top 50 players list. He is coming off of a season where he scored 39 points in 65 games; despite the fact the Ducks did not give him frontline playing time. Schneider cleared waivers. Eventually he was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers for Ken Klee, Brad Larson and Chad Painchaud. Atlanta would only take Schneider and his $5.625 million salary cap hit, if Anaheim took some salary in return.
The next high profile player waived is goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin. He has lost out in the Chicago Blackhawk goaltending battle. Cristobal Huet will be the starting goalie and rookie Antti Niemi, who had a strong training camp, will be the backup. Khabibulin has a $6.75 million salary cap hit from a contract he signed after winning the Stanley Cup in Tampa Bay. He has not played well enough to justify that amount of money since his arrival in Chicago. Khabibulin has now cleared waivers. He may now be sent to the AHL for the start of the season, unless some kind of trade can be worked out. In this trade, much like in Anaheim’s Mathieu Schneider trade, Chicago would be expected to take on some salary to get rid of Khabibulin.
That is not to say that all players on waivers have huge contracts that nobody is willing to claim. Tampa Bay found themselves with as many as 20 NHL capable forwards going into training camp and it was clear that they would have to send some of them to the minors. In all likelihood, some talented forwards would get lost in the shuffle. One such forward is Michel Ouellet. Ouellet has a much more manageable $1.25 million salary cap hit. He is coming off a season where he scored 36 points in 64 games, despite not receiving topline ice time. He put up a very good +/- rating on a bad Tampa team: By all accounts he did well in his role last year and looks ready for bigger things. However, he has cleared waivers and will likely now be assigned to the minors.
I would have claimed Ouellet on waivers if I was GM of a team with a weak forward group and salary cap space (the Vancouver Canucks strike me as a very good fit). I am surprised nobody took a chance on him. Michel Ouellet is a player with NHL ability who does not have a prohibitive contract. He probably would have made a good waiver claim.
There have been a couple of waiver claims as teams make their pre-season cuts. The New York Islanders claimed Ranger defenceman Thomas Pock. Pock will have a modest $667,500 salary cap hit. He was once seen as a good NHL prospect, but never matured into an NHL player. He did put up a solid 44 points in 74 games on defence in the AHL last year. Given the New York Islanders weak defence, he is likely going to get a chance to play. Pock was claimed largely because he is cheap. Cheap contracts are more important than NHL hockey ability when it comes to waiver claims.
Today, the Edmonton Oilers claimed goon defenceman Steve MacIntyre on waivers from the Florida Panthers. MacIntyre has a $537,500 salary cap hit and a two-way contract (so he will make less in the minors). He comes very cheap. It is not entirely clear how he will have a roster spot with the Oilers (he might not—they might try to place him on waivers and send him to the minors before long). MacIntyre has never played an NHL game. Last year he put up 5 points in 62 games in the AHL, but he had 213 penalty minutes. He is a cheap goon for the Oilers.
Before the season starts, many players will be placed on waivers by their teams. The highest profile ones will likely be players with big contracts who will clear waivers. It is the cheap lesser known players who teams actually claim.
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