One of the big personal pet peeves of mine is the lack of salary information from the league. Third party sites like NHLSCAP.com, CapGeek.com and NHLNumbers.com do a good job with the contract aspect of things, but don't handle waiver status. If there exists a league resource for waiver eligibility (official or otherwise), I haven't been able to find it.
That's head-scratching to me. If you need evidence as to the importance of the waiver system, you need look no farther than Kyle Quincey who would be with the Red Wings today if he hadn't been waiver eligible when the Wings needed to demote him last fall. This is information that we need to know.
So, I dove into the NHL's giant CBA pdf and poured over the NHLSCAP FAQ on the subject and I feel I've got a decent handle on waivers. I'm not really going to go into the gory details of the "why" of waivers, other than to say that for the first few years (usually 3) of a player's career or for his first x number of games (anywhere from 60 to 160), a player can be moved between the NHL and AHL freely (assuming he's old enough to play in the AHL, of course, which is another show). The length of time / number of games a player is exempt is based on the age of a player when he is signed (it has nothing to do with whether he has a 1-way contract). Once that period of exemption is over, a player needs to clear waivers before being demoted (or recalled, if he hasn't cleared waivers that season). This ends the the overly-simplistic overview, although there are other nuances (we're not going to touch re-entry waivers, for example). Let's get to the point of this post: the "who".
I've gone through some key Avalanche prospects to figure out who might is and is not eligible for waivers. I talked with Andre from AvalancheDB (the one place that lists Avalanche waivers) and we seem to be in basic agreement with our lists, which is encouraging (he's also updated the AvalancheDB Salary Chart). One caveat: I also spoke with Chip McCleary (from NHLSCAP) who indicated that sometimes the official NHL waiver eligibility doesn't jibe with the calculated eligibility for reasons he can't fully explain. Since I don't have access to the official info (see paragraph one), I'm going to go with what I've got.
Looking at the last depth chart thingy, the only three players exempt from waivers in the projected starting lineup are Ryan Stoa, T.J. Galiardi and Chris Stewart. Everyone would need to clear waivers to be sent to Lake Erie. Here's how I calculated a couple of the guys.
T.J. Hensick: Someone here (forget who, sorry) noted that the reason for Hensick's "conditioning assignment" last spring was because he couldn't be demoted without clearing waivers. Hensick signed his entry level with the Avalanche in April of 2007. He was 21 at the time, but for purposes of waivers he was 22 (he turned 22 by the end of the calendar year). As a 22-year old, he was exempt for 3 years (through the end of next season) or 70 NHL games (regular season and playoffs). T.J. played in his 70th NHL game on February 2nd and that's why he couldn't be domoted outright later that month. With the Avalanche cutting loose a bunch of veterans, it should be an easier decision to keep Hensick up with the club. But if a couple of guys pass Hensick in camp, there might be a difficult decision ahead.
David Jones: Jones is another player who became waiver eligible last year. Jones was signed in May of 2007 at the age of 22. Players 22 and over at the age of signing go by their signing age, not the age at the end of the year, as with Hensick, so Jones was also 22 for waiver purposes. He too would have been exempt for another season, but hit the 70 game mark for his career before an injury wiped out the end of his season. There's probably not much danger of the Avalanche needing to send Jones to Cleveland, although they did send him down once this past season (albeit for just one day).
Kyle Cumiskey: Here's the intriguing one. Cumiskey was signed in September of 2006. At the time, he was 19 but, like Hensick, is 20 for purposes of waivers (since he was 20 at the end of the year). As a 20-year old, he's exempt for 3 seasons from his signing and last year was the 3rd. If I'm reading this right - and, I assure you, I am in no way confident that I am - Cumiskey must now clear waivers before going back and forth to Lake Erie (not that the team has treated him like a yo-yo in the past). What raises my eyebrows a bit is that Cumiskey's new deal is a 2-way deal next year and a 1-way in the following season; why structure it that way if he can't easily be moved up and down? And, that also means that the Avalanche currently have 8 defensemen and none can be demoted without clearing waivers. I still think there's another deal coming regardless of Cumiskey's waiver status, but it's still an interesting situation.
Here's what I believe is the waivers situation for some other players in the pipeline:
Ray Macias and Chris Stewart become eligible beginning with the 2010-2011 season. Were Macias to play in 74 games this year, he'd become eligible, but that's not likely to happen and it's not like he'd need to be waived at that point of the season anyway.
T.J. Galiardi, Derek Peltier, Nigel Williams and Codey Burki become waiver eligible at the start of the 2011-2012 season. Peltier's exemption is cut short after 69 more NHL games. Galiardi can play in 149 and if he plays in 149 games over the next two years, it's unlikely he'd need to be demoted anyway.
Ryan Stoa is exempt until the 2012-2013 season, having just signed this spring. However, since he will be 22 at the end of this year (he's 22 now, actually), he only has 70 games before his exemption goes away. That's something to keep an eye on if he makes the team this year out of camp.
Cameron Gaunce and Trevor Cann are a ways away, being exempt from waivers until the 2013-2014 Stanley Cup season. In the unlikely event that Gaunce were to make the team and play 11 games this season, he'd lose one year of exemption.
Assuming that Matt Duchene signs this summer, he'll have a whopping 5 years of waiver exemption. However, if he plays in 11 games as an 18-year old or a 19-year old, that drops down to three and he'd first be eligible for waivers in 2012-2013 (or after 160 NHL games). However, if there is EVER a need to send Matt Duchene to Lake Erie, we're going to have a lot more to worry about than stupid waivers.