Hockey Jargon

Mastering NHL Waivers: A Comprehensive Guide to Player Transactions

Title: Understanding NHL Waivers: A Guide to Player TransactionsIn the fast-paced world of professional ice hockey, team rosters are constantly changing as players are moved between the NHL and minor league levels. One important aspect of these player transactions is waivers.

This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of waivers in the NHL, including their definition, when players are put on waivers, and how the process works. I.

Defining NHL Waivers:

– Waivers as a transaction process:

– Waivers are a mechanism employed by NHL teams to carry out player movements between the NHL and the minor league level. – When a player is placed on waivers, other teams have the opportunity to claim that player and assume his contract.

– The purpose of waivers:

– Promote competitive balance by offering struggling players a chance to be claimed by another team. – Prevent teams from stockpiling talented players at the minor league level.

II. Waivers at the Start of the NHL Season:

– NHL training camps:

– NHL training camps are where teams evaluate players’ performance and make final decisions regarding their roster.

– Some players are placed on waivers before the start of the regular season. – Assigning players to minor league teams:

– Players who clear waivers at the start of the season are usually assigned to an AHL or ECHL (minor league) team within their organization.

– This allows them to continue developing their skills and be ready for a potential call-up by the NHL team. III.

Waivers Throughout the Year:

– Placing players on waivers:

– NHL teams may place players on waivers throughout the year for various reasons. – Struggling or underperforming players may be put on waivers to give them a chance to reestablish themselves in a different environment.

– Injured players nearing a return may be waived if the team needs roster flexibility. – Claiming players:

– When a player is waived, other NHL teams have the opportunity to claim him within a set period.

– If multiple teams claim the player, priority is determined by the team with the lowest standing in the standings. – If a player goes unclaimed, he can be sent to the minor leagues, traded, or assigned to a taxi squad (reserve players).

IV. Additional Points about Waivers:

– Re-entry waivers:

– In the past, re-entry waivers were required when a player was called back up to the NHL after being sent to the minors.

However, this rule was removed in the 2013 collective bargaining agreement. – Non-waiver trades:

– Players who are traded between teams do not go through the waiver process.

– Impact on a player’s career:

– Waivers can be a stressful time for players, as they face uncertainty and potential transitions. – However, being claimed by another NHL team can provide players with a fresh opportunity to revive their career.


Understanding the waiver process in the NHL is crucial for both fans and players. From the definition of waivers to when players get put on waivers at the start of the NHL season and throughout the year, this article has provided a comprehensive guide.

Remember, waivers are a transaction process that aims to promote competitive balance in the league while providing players with opportunities to succeed. With this knowledge, hockey enthusiasts can appreciate the complexities of player transactions in one of the world’s most exciting sports.

III. Why do teams put players on waivers?

When it comes to putting players on waivers, NHL teams have specific reasons that drive their decision-making process. Here are some of the most common factors leading to a player being placed on waivers.

– Performance-related reasons:

Teams may choose to place a player on waivers due to their underperformance or struggles on the ice. Whether it’s inconsistency, a prolonged scoring drought, defensive shortcomings, or an overall decline in production, teams want to maximize their chances of winning.

By placing a struggling player on waivers, they give that player an opportunity to be claimed by another team where they might find a better fit or a fresh start. Additionally, it allows the team to free up a roster spot to bring in new talent.

– Salary considerations:

Financial factors may also play a significant role in the decision to put a player on waivers. NHL teams have salary cap limitations, and if a player’s salary is particularly high or not commensurate with their on-ice performance, teams may opt to waive them.

By doing so, the team provides other clubs an opportunity to claim the player while taking on their salary. This can offer teams some salary cap relief while potentially freeing up resources to acquire players who better suit their needs.

– Roster management:

Teams often face challenges in managing their rosters. Whether it’s due to the return of an injured player, the need for additional depth, or the desire to experiment with new players, waivers can help them navigate these issues.

By placing a player on waivers, the team creates the flexibility to call up prospects or acquire new players via trade or free agency without exposing their existing roster to waivers. IV.

How long does a player stay on waivers? When a player is put on waivers, they remain in that status for a set duration, allowing other teams an opportunity to claim them.

The length of a player’s stay on waivers is determined by the day of the week the transaction occurs. – Standard waiver period:

Typically, a player placed on waivers remains there for a period of 24 hours.

During this time, NHL teams have the opportunity to review the available players and decide whether to submit a claim. At the end of the 24-hour window, if no team claims the player, they clear waivers, meaning they remain with their current team.

– Exceptions:

There are instances where the waiver period is extended beyond the usual 24 hours. If a player is placed on waivers on a Saturday, they will typically remain there until noon Eastern Time on Monday, resulting in a 48-hour waiver period.

This allows teams more time to assess their needs over the weekend before deciding on a potential claim. It’s important to note that once a player clears waivers, their team maintains full control over their roster status.

They can choose to assign the player to the AHL, ECHL, or any other minor league affiliate within their organization, as long as their contract allows for such a move. Alternatively, the player can be recalled to the NHL team or placed on a taxi squad, which is a group of reserve players that travel and practice with the NHL team.


Understanding why teams place players on waivers and how long a player can stay in that status is crucial to grasp the intricacies of player transactions in the NHL. Performance-related reasons, salary considerations, and roster management all factor into a team’s decision to waive a player.

Additionally, the duration of a player’s stay on waivers is typically 24 hours, although there are exceptions such as the 48-hour window when waivers occur on a Saturday. This expanded knowledge equips fans with a deeper understanding of the complexities involved in player transactions, contributing to a more comprehensive appreciation of the sport.

V. What does it mean to clear waivers?

When a player is placed on waivers, the ultimate outcome is whether they clear waivers or get claimed by another team. Clearing waivers simply means that no team has submitted a claim to acquire the player.

Let’s delve deeper into what it means for a player to clear waivers in the NHL. – No claims filed:

When a player goes through the waiver process without any other team submitting a claim, it signifies that the player remains with their original team.

In such cases, the player is typically required to report to their team’s minor league affiliate, such as the AHL or ECHL, depending on the organizational structure. Clearing waivers does not automatically guarantee the player’s assignment to the minor league team, as the NHL team may choose to recall them to the NHL roster or place them on a taxi squad.

– Reporting to a minor league team:

Once a player clears waivers and is assigned to a minor league team, they join that team and continue playing at the lower level. This provides an opportunity for the player to work on their skills, regain confidence, or showcase their abilities in hopes of earning another chance at the NHL level.

While it may not be the desired outcome for the player, it offers them the opportunity for further development and the potential for a call-up in the future. – Contract obligations:

When a player clears waivers and is assigned to the minors, their contract terms and obligations remain the same.

The player’s salary and contract length are not affected by them being placed on waivers. The NHL team is still responsible for paying the player according to the agreed-upon terms of their contract, regardless of their assignment to the minor leagues.

VI. How does a player get claimed on waivers?

When a player is placed on waivers, NHL teams have an opportunity to claim them within a specific timeframe. Let’s explore the process of claiming a player on waivers and the factors that come into play.

– Submitting a claim:

To claim a player on waivers, an NHL team must submit a claim to the league. Once a claim is filed, it indicates the team’s interest in acquiring the player and taking over their contract.

The claims are confidential, so other teams remain unaware of who has submitted a claim until the completion of the waiver period. – Priority determination:

If multiple teams submit claims for the same player, priority is determined based on the team with the lowest number of points in the standings at that time.

This priority system promotes competitive balance in the league by providing struggling teams with a better chance to claim a player who could potentially improve their roster. – Claiming process:

Once the waiver period expires, the NHL reviews the claims made for the player.

If only one team submitted a claim, that team is awarded the player’s rights, and they assume the player’s contract. The player then joins the claiming team and reports to their NHL roster or taxi squad.

– Trade implications:

If multiple teams submit claims for a player, the team with the highest priority based on the standings gets the first opportunity to claim the player. However, claiming a player on waivers also means that the claiming team inherits the player’s existing contract, including any salary obligations that come with it.

This factor can impact a team’s decision to submit a claim, as they need to weigh the player’s skills against the financial implications of taking on their contract. – The fate of unclaimed players:

If no team submits a claim for a player, they clear waivers, and their original team retains their rights.

The team then has the flexibility to decide whether to keep the player on their roster, assign them to the minors, place them on the taxi squad, or explore trade opportunities. Conclusion:

Understanding what it means for a player to clear waivers and how they can be claimed by another team enhances our comprehension of the NHL waiver process.

Clearing waivers allows a player to remain with their original team, leading to an assignment to a minor league affiliate. On the other hand, claiming a player involves submitting a claim during the waiver period, with priority given to lower-ranked teams in the standings.

This expanded knowledge enables fans to better grasp the outcomes and potential movements resulting from the waiver process within the NHL. VII.

Is waivers ever a good thing for the player? While waivers can be a challenging and uncertain process for players, there are situations where it can actually benefit them.

Let’s explore the potential advantages of waivers for players in the NHL. – Fresh start and increased opportunity:

For struggling players who find themselves in a rut or lacking playing time at the NHL level, being placed on waivers can provide a fresh start.

Joining a new team within the organization’s minor league system allows players to refine their skills, regain confidence, and potentially earn more ice time. This increased opportunity to showcase their abilities in the minors can lead to a call-up or act as a stepping stone towards earning a permanent spot on an NHL roster.

– Development and growth:

Placing a player on waivers and assigning them to the minors can have significant developmental benefits. Young prospects who need more seasoning and experience can thrive in the minor league environment, where they can receive more playing time, enhance their skills, and adapt to the professional game.

The extended minutes and responsibilities in the minors can accelerate their growth and ultimately lead to a stronger NHL career. – Competitive motivation:

Being placed on waivers can serve as a motivational tool for players.

The realization that their spot on the NHL roster is not guaranteed can ignite a fire within them to work harder, improve their performance, and prove their worth. This heightened sense of competition and the desire to reclaim their spot can drive players to push themselves beyond their limits, resulting in personal growth and potentially earning back their role in the NHL.

VIII. Are all players eligible?

Waiver exemptions. While most players are subject to being placed on waivers, there are certain circumstances where players are exempt from the process.

These exemptions, known as waiver exemptions, apply to specific players based on their professional experience or contractual terms. Let’s explore some common scenarios where players may be exempt from waivers.

– No Movement Clauses (NMC):

Players who have a No Movement Clause included in their contract are generally exempt from waivers. An NMC provides players with the right to refuse any attempt by the team to send them to the minors or expose them to waivers.

As a result, players with an NMC retain their spot on the NHL roster and cannot be placed on waivers without their consent. – Entry-Level contracts:

Players on entry-level contracts, which are typically three years in duration for rookies, are usually exempt from waivers.

These contracts are designed for young players making their NHL debuts, aiming to give them an opportunity to develop their skills without the potential risk of being claimed by another team. However, should they complete their entry-level contract and still require a demotion to the minors, they would then become subject to waivers.

– Minor league veterans:

Minor league veterans, players with a certain number of professional games under their belts, may also be exempt from waivers. The exact threshold can vary depending on the league and players’ ages.

This exemption provides teams with additional flexibility in managing their roster without risking losing minor league veterans to other teams’ claims. – Emergency conditions:

In exceptional circumstances, such as when an NHL team faces a goaltending shortage due to injuries or illness, they may have the ability to recall a goaltender from the minors without subjecting them to waivers.

This exemption is known as emergency conditions and is granted on a case-by-case basis, allowing teams to address unforeseen circumstances without going through the waiver process. It’s important to note that players exempt from waivers can still be traded between teams without the need to pass through waivers.

Waiver exemptions offer specific player categories protection from the risk of being claimed by another team, providing stability and security within the organization. Conclusion:

While waivers can be a challenging experience for players, it can also present opportunities for growth, development, and a fresh start.

The potential benefits include increased ice time, the chance to prove oneself in the minors, and a renewed sense of motivation. However, it is important to remember that not all players are eligible for waivers.

Exemptions exist for players with No Movement Clauses, those on entry-level contracts, minor league veterans, and those under emergency conditions. Understanding these waivers exemptions ensures a more comprehensive understanding of how players are affected by the waiver process in the NHL.

IX. Do waived players get paid?

When a player is placed on waivers and subsequently assigned to the minor leagues, their payment is largely determined by the specifics of their contract. Let’s explore how payment works for players who have been waived in the NHL.

– One-way contracts:

Players on one-way contracts receive the same salary regardless of whether they are playing in the NHL or the minor leagues. In this scenario, even if a player is waived and sent to the minors, they continue to receive their full NHL salary.

This payment structure provides financial security for players, ensuring that they receive their agreed-upon compensation regardless of their roster status. – Two-way contracts:

On the other hand, players on two-way contracts receive variable salaries depending on whether they are in the NHL or the minor leagues.

When a player on a two-way contract is waived and subsequently assigned to the minors, their salary is adjusted based on the minor league standards outlined in their contract. This often results in a lower salary while playing in the minors compared to their NHL earnings.

It’s essential to note that while players in the minors may receive a lower salary compared to their NHL counterparts, their contracts still provide a level of financial stability and compensation for their professional services. X.

Exempt Waivers on an Emergency Basis

While the waiver process typically applies to players being assigned or recalled, there is an exemption known as ‘Emergency Basis’ waivers in certain circumstances. Let’s explore the nature and implications of this waiver exemption.

– Recalling players on an emergency basis:

Under normal circumstances, when an NHL team wants to recall a player from the minor leagues, they must pass through waivers unless they are exempt. However, in emergency situations where an NHL team faces unexpected injuries or illnesses to key players and cannot field a full lineup, they can recall players on an emergency basis without subjecting them to the waiver process.

– Waive exempt status:

When a player is called up on an emergency basis, their waiver exempt status is temporarily waived to allow for their immediate return to the NHL team. This exemption is granted on a case-by-case basis, and its primary purpose is to address unforeseen circumstances and enable teams to field a complete roster when impacted by injuries or illnesses the day of a game.

– Duration of the emergency recall:

The emergency recall is valid only for the duration of the specific emergency that necessitated the player’s recall. Once the emergency situation resolves or the injured players recover, the player on emergency recall must either return to the minors or go through the regular recall process, which may involve waivers.

It’s crucial to note that while emergency recalls exempt players from the waiver process temporarily, the waiver rules apply once the emergency condition has been resolved. This ensures that teams cannot exploit this exemption to keep waiver-eligible players on their NHL roster beyond the scope of the emergency situation.


Understanding the payment structure for waived players and the implications of emergency basis waivers adds depth to our comprehension of the NHL waiver process. Players on one-way contracts continue to receive their full NHL salary, even if they are assigned to the minors, providing financial security.

Meanwhile, those on two-way contracts may see their salary adjusted based on the minor league standards. Additionally, the emergency basis waiver exemption allows teams to recall players without going through the regular waiver process, ensuring roster completeness during times of unexpected injuries or illnesses.

This expanded knowledge offers insight into the financial aspects and exemptions involved in the waiver process, contributing to a well-rounded understanding of player transactions in the NHL. In conclusion, waivers play a significant role in NHL player transactions, enabling teams to make roster adjustments and maintain competitive balance.

Understanding the waiver process, from the definition of waivers to when players are put on waivers and the duration of their stay, allows fans to appreciate the complexities of player movement. Waivers can offer struggling players a fresh start, provide opportunities for development and growth, and serve as a motivating factor.

It is important to note that not all players are eligible for waivers due to exemptions such as No Movement Clauses and entry-level contracts. Additionally, waived players receive compensation based on their contract structure.

Finally, exemptions on an emergency basis allow teams to temporarily recall players without going through the regular waiver process. Overall, grasping the nuances of waivers enhances our understanding of the NHL and the impact of player transactions in the world of professional ice hockey.

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