by PuckStopsHere on 10/08/08 at 01:26 PM ET
The NHL has had re-entry waivers as part of the CBA since the lockout occurred. Re-entry waivers are when a player who makes more than $100,000 a year in the AHL (this number goes up over time) is recalled to the NHL. He must clear waivers before he joins his current NHL team. If a player is claimed on waivers, his original team gets him for half his remaining salary and half his remaining salary cap hit. The prevailing wisdom is that if one team thinks a player is worth recalling, so will another team in the league if he is available at half price. Therefore, you are highly unlikely to get any player through re-entry waivers successfully, so don’t even try. This led to the Los Angeles Kings leaving Jason LaBarbera in the minors for the entire 2006/07 season, even though he was playing very well and won the Baz Bastien Trophy for top AHL goalie, while the Kings were struggling to find NHL goaltending. They would up using re-tread Sean Burke and minor league never-will-bes in Barry Brust and Yutaka Fukufuji instead. I oppose this rule because it is an artificial construct that keeps some NHL talent out of the league. I have written about this several times in the past including here.
The strategy of keeping LaBarbera in the minors hurt the Kings in 2006/07, but since they held his rights beyond that season, it ensured they would keep him into the future. Today he is their number one goalie. In the case of players in the last season of their contracts, this strategy makes no sense. There is no future to keep the player. If you wish to recall him, you might as well attempt to do so because he will leave at the end of the season without playing any NHL games for you. The only concern is that if he gets claimed, you must have sufficient salary cap space to handle half his salary plus that of a replacement player.
I am unaware of any player to successfully clear re-entry waivers and re-join his NHL club. I don’t think any exist. I cannot recall any and a quick google search does not bring any up (if you have an example of one please drop me a comment). I know of a few players that were placed on re-entry waivers in an attempt to get rid of the salary (or half of it) and send the players elsewhere who were not picked, but not of a case where the player rejoined the NHL club that initially sent him to the minors. Some of the more prominent players claimed on re-entry waivers to date include Sergei Samsonov, Petr Nedved, Ron Hainsey and Sean Burke.
Looking forward, I think there will be some cases of players successfully clearing re-entry waivers and rejoining their NHL team. I think it will happen this season. I think this because of the shear number of players who are being placed on waivers who will be sent to the minors out of training camp and will have to clear re-entry waivers to be called back up. Some of the players on this list include Peter Schaeffer, Mark Bell, Michel Ouellet, Matt Pettinger and Kyle McLaren. I think teams will attempt to recall some of the players on this list (and maybe some missing from this list) although some might be claimed on re-entry waivers, it is unlikely all will be. Teams can only spare so many roster spots to marginal players (like waiver pickups) and with enough players on the waiver wire (including re-entries), some will succeed in clearing.
There are more potential re-entry players getting sent to the minors this season than in previous years. This is probably caused by two things. The lockout allowed a two year reset where many bad contracts expired and it allowed teams to sign players to one-way contracts (hence subject to re-entry waivers if they were sent to the minors) to players who were quite likely to keep their roster spots. Also, as the salary cap rises, being stuck paying half a contract on a player that you lost takes up less of a percentage of your cap space, so there is less risk in having such players on your books.
I think we will start to see players clear re-entry waivers and re-enter the NHL this season after a stint in the minors. It will not happen every time a team attempts to recall such a player, but it will start to happen. Nevertheless, it is a clause that I don’t like in the CBA. It can keep NHL worthy players in the minors.
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