A few times a year, I wonder why General Managers don’t do certain things. Using the waiver wire is one of these things. If you are a Twitter user and follow the NHL, chances are your timeline is full of many people saying claim this guy or that guy. The thing is, it’s more of a dream than a reality.
Reasons to make a claim
Simple player acquisition, for younger talent that should hit its prime (if it’s going to happen), is the biggest reason. It’s been reported that the prime years for the average player are around age 25. The NHL drafts players who are playing their 17/18 year old season. In the large gap between those time frames, players fall between the cracks and don’t become a fraction of their projection. As fans, we get worked up every draft, then training camp, then during the season as we see drafted player after drafted player wash out. We are fans so that goes with being fanatical.
Every team has a 50 NHL contract limit. There is a balancing act to achieve depth, retain cap flexibility, and make trades. I often want the Oilers to enter training camp with 43 or 44 contracts. It could be achieved if the Oilers didn’t make signings like the Mark Fraser types. I have found with the change of management that Chiarelli has made a better use of contracts with players that actually have a shot at making the big club. If the Oilers were to enter camp with fewer contracts, the players who become available on the waiver wire would be a lot more “claimable”.
A few players just on waivers today deserve a real shot on a new team. We have promising guys available – like Pulkkinen, who has scored at a really high clip in the AHL, and NHL experience says he deserves a shot at more ice time. Interestingly, he is being cut for veterans like Steve Ott and Drew Miller. There’re also veterans like PA Parenteau, who has scored throughout his career, and a goalie that shows more promise than other goalies in the Oilers organization. Quality is available on the waiver wire. A few different players could fit the bill for a few different teams – not just the Oilers. Some players that hit the waivers have high pedigree (both first round picks and players who scored 20 goals just a year ago).
I believe we have established there are reasons and talent available on the waiver wire.
Why don’t teams use the waiver more?
- Claiming a player means he needs to make the active 23 man roster. This can be an issue for players learning the coach’s system, or an indictment on the management and player acquisition.
- The salary cap can be an issue, more so than contract limits (although most waiver players are low paid).
Typically GMs like to get their Rosters planned before leaving for summer vacations. They like to know who they are going to go into battle with. There is nothing wrong with that thought but their main priority is talent acquisition. If you are a manager and you can acquire players that you don’t have to put years into development, it is worth taking chances; if the players don’t work out, you can put them on waivers again or at the very least have used one of your 50 contracts.
Looks like a few teams added depth to their 23 man roster, yet the Oilers stood on the sidelines. The only one they didn’t have waiver priority on was Griffith (because Toronto finished the season below them in the standings, they had priority selection).
Using waivers provides a team with depth at a low cost. Does it turn you into a winner overnight? No. To me, it’s about extracting value at lower parts of the roster – it’s about small wins and baby steps adding value at low cost.
All in all, using waivers is a way of improving your bottom line. In the business world we have to watch our nickels and dimes in order to make a profit or win. These moves are about adding nickels and dimes.
Today, when they had ample opportunity to add a little to the roster, the Oilers didn’t improve.
But all is not lost: the easiest players to acquire are the bottom of the roster wingers. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was a winning roster.