Since I was out galavanting until 5am and am working on very little sleep, it seems like the perfect time for me to dig into article 13 of the CBA and crunch some numbers on the waiver status for Avalanche players for the upcoming season. Of course, the CBA is expiring and there will be a new set of rules when we next see NHL players on the ice, so everything presented here could certainly change.
NHL waivers is a relatively simple concept with a couple of complexities thrown in to make things a little confusing. Essentially, if a team wants to send a player to or from the minors, he has to clear waivers first. Brandon Yip was lost last year in this manner - the Avalanche had to waive him to send him to Lake Erie and Nashville claimed him on waivers. New NHL players are exempt from waivers. The actual time varies depending on the age of the player when he signs his first pro contract, but most players are exempt for their first three years, but that's cut short if they play a certain number NHL games (anywhere from 60-160, again depending on signing age). Some people mistakenly believe that the type of contract - 1-way, where a player earns the same money whether they play in the NHL or AHL or 2-way, where a player earns one amount in the NHL and a different amount in the AHL - affects waiver status. It doesn't, although there are some additional nuances where it does come into play, described a little later.
The Avalanche are a relatively young team, but most of the core players are eligible for waivers - they can't go to the minors without being exposed to waivers. The list of players who are waiver eligible, unofficial and according to my own calculations (italics are explained farther below):
Forward: Paul Stastny, David Jones, PA Parenteau, Matt Duchene, Ryan O'Reilly, Steve Downie, Milan Hejduk, Jamie McGinn, Chuck Kobasew, Cody McLeod, John Mitchell, David van der Gulik, Bill Thomas, Patrick Bordeleau
Defense: Erik Johnson, Jan Hejda, Greg Zanon, Ryan Wilson, Shane O'Brien, Ryan O'Byrne, Matt Hunwick, Sean Sullivan, Thomas Pock
Goalies: Semyon Varlamov, J.S. Giguere.
As you can see, waiver status isn't really going to be very significant as very few players on this list would be considered candidates to move to (or from) the AHL. There are some other slightly notable waiver considerations though.
Gabriel Landeskog loses his waiver eligibility after 160 NHL games (he currently has 82). Not that he's going to the minors, ever.
Mark Olver is one of only two cases of note. He becomes waiver eligible after 28 more NHL games played. If by some chance he doesn't hit that this year, he becomes waiver eligible next year...but if he doesn't see 28 games this year his risk of being lost on waivers next year probably isn't too severe.
Brad Malone is exempt for the next two NHL seasons or 61 more NHL games, whichever happens first (or at all).
Cameron Gaunce is the second notable waiver case. He is entering his last year of waiver exemption, while Tyson Barrie and Stefan Elliott have two more seasons of waiver freedom. This might mean the Avalanche favor Gaunce if there is a call-up opportunity or it could mean that the Avs might include him in a deal this year rather than risk losing him for nothing next year or perhaps it means absolutely nothing.
One final complexity in the waiver process would be "re-entry waivers". This is the one place where 1-way, 2-way deals come into play. Basically, a waiver-eligible player in the AHL with an AHL salary of $105,000 or more who gets recalled is exposed to re-entry waivers. It works the same as regular waivers, except the claiming team only pays half the player's salary, while the losing team picks up the other half. You may recall Sean Avery and Sheldon Souray being put on re-entry waivers in recent years in an attempt to move them (Avery was claimed, Souray cleared).
So, unless the Avalanche suddenly sour on a player and can't move him via trade, re-entry waivers isn't even on the radar. All of the non-italicized players above would be eligible for re-entry waivers IF they somehow had been demoted to minors (clearing regular waivers) and then recalled later in the season. The italicized players are not eligible for re-entry waivers. Sullivan and Bordelau make less than $105,000 in the AHL. Pock, Thomas and van der Gulik all will make more than $105,000 in the AHL this year, but, since it wasn't already complicated enough, there is an exemption from re-entry form players with 320+ NHL / AHL / ECHL games but less than 40 NHL games last year or 80 the last two years. So, while they are still waiver eligible, it is just regular waivers, not re-entry waivers. Get it? Oh, and Mark Olver will play under a 2-way contract next year but it becomes a 1-way deal in 2013 which means...anyone?...re-entry waivers enter the picture for him that year.
If none of this makes sense, don't worry. The takeaway for all of this is that waivers isn't going to come into play much this year. Very few of the Avs who are waiver eligible are in any danger of being sent to the minors. Tyson Barrie, Stefan Elliott will be exempt all season long, no matter what happens. The same goes for Cameron Gaunce, although his status the year after could have an impact for him this year. Mark Olver has a good chance of becoming waiver eligible this year and Brad Malone has an outside chance at the same. Other than that, there's not much to discuss...unless, of course, the new CBA changes absolutely everything (or if my lack of sleep has caused me to screw all my math up here, a very definite possibility).