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The Puck Stops Here

Waiver Rules Keep NHLers Out Of The League

One of my complaints about the NHL system is that waiver rules often keep NHL capable players out of the league.  The most obvious example is re-entry waivers, where certain players must clear waivers to get called up to the NHL.  Any team claiming the player assumes his contract at half price.  Thus it is usually unlikely to get a player through re-entry waivers.  As a result, teams have kept NHL talents in the minors for the whole season instead of risking it.

Another issue is waivers for players who play in Europe.  If a player plays on a European team, he must clear waivers if he is to play in the NHL as well in the same season.  The New York Islanders failed to get Wade Dubielewicz onto their roster as a result of this rule.  If there are other KHL players willing to jump back to the NHL this season, they have been prevented by waivers.  Why would a team sign them when they are not likely to play for that team - but rather an opponent?

We saw two examples of moves that were driven by waiver rules in the NHL yesterday. 

Martin Brodeur is returning from injury with the New Jersey Devils.  That leaves the Devils with three NHL goalies.  They have chosen to send Scott Clemmensen to the minors.  He has a .917 saves percentage and a 2.39 GAA.  These are some of the better numbers in the NHL.  However since he was called up on an emergency basis, he is the only one of the three goalies that would not have to clear waivers to be returned to the minors.  Kevin Weekes would have to clear waivers. 

Both Weekes and Clemmensen are free agents this summer.  I imagine the plan is to trade Weekes to somebody before the trade deadline.  A contender in need of a backup goalie (for example Calgary) would have a use for him.  After that, Clemmensen can be brought back to the NHL without waivers.  Since Martin Brodeur often plays every game in net, it is likely that neither Weekes nor Clemmensen would play a game by that time.  The result is that right now, Scott Clemmensen is in the minors and he is far too good a goalie for that.  He has clearly shown he is a pretty good NHL player.

The New York Rangers also claimed Mark Bell on re-entry waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Bell is a two-time 20 goal scorer who has not worked out in Toronto.  He has proven to be an NHL talent in the past.  On a team as weak as the Leafs, he would have been worth a shot to get their offence going.  The Leafs didn’t give him that shot because there was no point.  Bell was placed on re-entry waivers late enough into the season that it was likely he might be claimed (without being too big a salary burden).  The New York Rangers have a new coach and are struggling to maintain a playoff berth.  They hope that the addition of Mark Bell might help them.

Waiver rules explain a significant number of NHL transactions.  Players are sent to and called up from the minors with waiver rules (instead of hockey ability) often.  This can keep NHL talents out of the NHL.  Scott Clemmensen is currently in the minors and he has been o0ne of the better goalies this year.  Two time 20 goal man Mark Bell could not crack the Toronto Maple Leafs weak roster because of waiver rules.  There are countless other examples in the league.  Most of these players are less significant players on the bottom of rosters.  It is rare that one is as good as Clemmensen.  I would like to see the best possible group of players in the NHL at any given time.  The NHL’s own rules prevent it.  That is a backward situation.

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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