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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Who Gets Waived When Leafs Trade with a "Cap" Team?

Claiming Matt Lashoff from Re-entry
Waivers Can Result in $275k Cap Hit 
Expect Toronto Maple Leafs to waive a player from its NHL roster if a trade is made with a cap strapped team such as Boston Bruins or New Jersey Devils.  The cap strapped team is unlikely to want a player from Toronto's active playing roster.  As a result, Toronto will want to assign a player to Toronto Marlies as a cap control measure.

Whom will they select?  It will depend on the criteria they choose to use.  It may simply be a "hockey" decision where they demote the worst player regardless of his contract.  Toronto may select a player with a two-way contract as a budget control measure.

A real possibility will be a player you can assign to the minors without waiving.  Toronto's ability to recall the player without having to place them on re-entry waivers will also factor in on the choice.

Who can be assigned to the Marlies without having to clear waivers?

Presently, Toronto Maple Leafs can send the following players to the minors without placing them on waivers: Luca Caputi, Korbian Holzinger, Christian Hanson, Jonus Gustavsson, Tyler Bozak, and Carl Gunnarsson.  Expect the list to shrink as the season progresses.  Here is why.

A player has to play a certain number of NHL games or have a number of years pass from the signing of his first NHL contract before he must be waived to be assigned to a minor league team.  These numbers depend on the age of the player when he signs his first NHL contract.  You can see the details in the chart below from  Please note, there are some exceptions to this chart.

Years from signing 1st NHL contract
NHL Games Played
Years from signing 1st NHL contract
NHL Games Played

* - If a player plays in 11 or more NHL games at age 18 or 19, the exemption period shall drop to 4 years for goalies and 3 years for skaters with the first year playing in 11+ games counting as the 1st year, and the following years counting toward the exemption regardless of if the player plays in the NHL.

Without getting into the details of each player's contract, I can say Luca Caputi can be assigned to the Marlies at any time this season without having to clear waivers.

This is not the case for the others.  Most of them are close to their NHL game limit.  When this limit is reached, the player must clear waivers to be assigned to the minors.  Here is the list:

Player GP Limit
Carl Gunnarsson 51 60
Tyler Bozak 50 60
Jonas Gustavsson 46 60
Christian Hanson 38 60
Luca Caputi 33 160
Korbian Holzer1 60

What about the players waived to the Marlies at the end of training camp?  What happens if Toronto recalls one of them to the NHL?  If a player cleared waivers and is subsequently recalled during the same year, he does not have to clear waivers again unless he has either played 10 or more NHL games or has spent 30 or more days on an NHL roster since last clearing. Otherwise, he will have to re-clear waivers to be assigned.

Toronto assigned Mike Zigomannis to the Marlies this season after playing eight games.  They may have done it to keep their options open and avoid having to waive him later.  Remember, he did clear waivers at the end of training camp before assigned to the NHL active playing roster.

Whom can Toronto call up from the Marlies without clearing re-entry waivers?

This is important to cap management.  You have to assume half the cap hit and pay half the salary for a player claimed by another team on re-entry waivers.  Avoid this risky move.

Anyone on a one-way contract or making more than $105k in the minors on a two-way contract must clear re-entry waivers when recalled to the NHL.

PlayerNHL CapAHL Salary
Jeff Finger $3,500,000 $3,500,000
Matt Lashoff $550,000 $550,000
Danny Richmond* $550,000 $200,000
Joey Crabb* $525,000 $200,000
Mike Zigomannis* $500,000 $250,000

* - Exempt from re-entry waivers on recall

There are exemptions to this rule for players on two-way contracts.  A skater is exempt if he has played at least 320 professional games (NHL, AHL, and ECHL) and has not spent more than 80 games on an NHL roster in the prior two seasons or more than 40 games on an NHL roster in the previous season.

Both Mike Zigomannis and Danny Richmond have played at least 320 professional games.  Mike Zigomannis was on Pittsburgh's playing roster for 80 games in 2008-2009 when he played 29 games that season.

In short, Jeff Finger, Matt Lashoff, and Joey Crabb must clear re-entry waivers to be recalled to Toronto's NHL playing roster.  I doubt Brian Burke will risk losing them and having to pay half the NHL Cap Salary.

What about "emergency" recall?

You can recall anyone due to an emergency without using re-entry waivers.  An emergency occurs when you have fewer than 2 goalies, 6 defencemen, or 12 forwards on the active playing roster. This can happen when you place a player on Injured Reserve, Long-Term Injured Reserve, or suspension.  Of course, there has to be cap space to bring up a player on emergency recall.

Toronto can use this option for Finger,  Lashoff, and Crabb when both the Maple Leafs and Marlies are playing at home in Toronto.

How does this affect a trade with cap-strapped teams?

It can be a significant help with New Jersey's situation.  When Zach Parise returns from Long-Term Injury Reserve in February, New Jersey must clear about $2.7 to $2.8 mil in cap space.  Rumours have New Jersey most likely trading David Clarkson ($2.666 mil cap salary) to fix the problem.  If true, they will have a small shortfall.

New Jersey can fix the problem by claiming one of Toronto's players on re-entry waivers.  For example, Toronto places Joey Crabb on re-entry waivers for the purpose of recall.  New Jersey can claim him and only have to worry about half his $525k cap salary.  Of course, they must entice Toronto to co-operate.  They should do this while near last place to avoid other teams undermining their plan.

It is hard to see much benefit in the Boston Bruins scenario.  Boston expects Marco Sturm to return from Long-Term Injury Reserve by December.  They will need to shed at least $1.1 mil to be cap compliant and $3.3 mil to avoid using their bonus cushion.  Rumours have Blake Wheeler ($2.2 mil cap salary) being traded to fix the problem.  This leaves Boston with a $1.1 mil shortfall, which forces them to use their bonus cushion to remain cap compliant.  

They can avoid using their bonus cushion if they dump Mark Stuart ($1.675 mil cap salary) and replace him with a defenceman making under $580k cap salary.  Both, Danny Richmond ($550k cap salary) and Juraj Mikus ($533k cap salary)  are recallable and meet the salary cap criteria.

If Boston arranges for Toronto to place Matt Lashoff ($550k) on re-entry waivers so they can claim him and only incur half his salary on their cap, they can deal with their bonus cushion usage by moving Matt Hunwick ($1.45 mil cap salary).  This works as long as New Jersey or another team does not claim Lashoff.

If Marc Savard ($4.007 mil cap salary) returns, Boston is rumoured to move Michael Ryder ($4 mil cap salary).

Special Notes

Toronto cannot recall Justin Hodgman and Mike Brennan from the Marlies because they are not on Toronto's "reserve list".  They have to sign an NHL contract with Toronto to be on the reserve list and eligible for recall.  An NHL team can have up to 50 players signed to an NHL contract and assigned to a professional hockey team on its reserve list.  Toronto has 51 players signed to an NHL contract; 48 assigned to professional hockey teams; and 3 assigned to junior teams.  They have room for two more players on their professional reserve list.

Next year, James Reimer and Luca Caputi will have to clear waivers if Toronto wants to assign them to the minors.

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Post Script 28th of November, 2010

Joey Crabb is exempt from re-entry waivers if playoff games count towards the 320 minimum professional games played requirement.  Trying to confirm his case.


  1. If Bozak doesn't smarten up, he might find himself down there.

    Ok, probably not, but it would be easier from a hockey perspective and he's starting to put himself in the dog house with his 'lazy' play.

    He'd better find a way to turn it around while a comment like this is still a joke and before it gets a little more serious.

  2. Don't the Leafs management have an inside joke about keeping certain players on a chihuahua leash. I wonder if they are fitting Bozak for one.