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Canadiens Could Use Waivers To Fill Two Needs WIth One Deed

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Montreal Canadiens

There has been a lot of talk of the Montreal Canadiens’ waiver priority over the last few days, but that isn’t the only way they can strategically use waivers to their advantage this fall.

The Canadiens currently find themselves in a pickle at the forward position, and the trade market remains quiet for the time being, as clubs continue their evaluation process prior to the start of camp. General manager Kent Hughes and executive-vice-president Jeff Gorton have both indicated a desire to add a right-shot defenceman, while also alleviating themselves of a logjam at the forward position prior to the start of the season.

With the start of the NHL calendar a little over a week away, the time to make a move may run out, but that doesn’t mean the Canadiens are without options.

 

Use Waivers To Clear Cap Space

For those looking at CapFriendly or Puckpedia at the moment, it looks like the Canadiens have used up all their LTIR relief space; but there’s something to keep in mind when looking at those numbers. The Montreal Canadiens currently have 16 forwards, seven defencemen and two goaltenders in that calculation; a total of 25 players. The Canadiens will not be able to start the season with 25 players on the roster, meaning that the current belief that the Canadiens have just $200,000 in LTIR relief space is wrong, since they’ll not only have to trim their roster by two, or put Paul Byron on LTIR, they’d also need to trim their roster to accommodate any waiver pickup as well.

What does that mean? The Canadiens will gain between $1.6M to $2.2M in LTIR relief space by trimming down their roster to 23 players; how much money they save will depend on which players are waived/went down to Laval. That will give the Canadiens plenty of opportunity to go and add a player via waivers that perhaps isn’t on a league minimum salary; or potentially add more than one player in the process.

Further to that, on a recent segment of TSN 690Jeff Gorton, was asked how he would address the logjam and whether the use of waivers to create cap space and roster space would be considered:

“It’s not your favourite thing to do, it’s not something you like to do, but we might have to,” said Gorton when it comes to the use of waivers to bring their roster down to 23 players. “If all these young kids are ready and can help us now, then yeah, we’ll create the space. Whether we trade someone or whether we use waivers, we’ll be as creative as we can to make it work that we have the right players here. ”

The Canadiens would be able to maximize their LTIR relief space by waiving higher-priced players, as they can save up to $1.1M in cap space per player waived (that player must have a cap hit of $1.1M or higher). Would the Canadiens dare to put a player like Joel Armia or Mike Hoffman on waivers, given their cap hits of $3.4M or $4.5M, knowing that the league is so cap-strapped that they wouldn’t be claimed? It’s a strategy that was used two seasons ago by general manager Marc Bergevin, through the advice of now assistant general manager John Sedgwick, when he waived Paul Byron on multiple occasions. With Byron having a $3.4M cap hit, it allowed the Canadiens to create the necessary space to eventually add players like Eric Staal at the trade deadline that year.

This time around, the Canadiens are firmly over the cap thanks to LTIR and cannot accrue cap space over time. That means that any savings they make by putting a higher salary on waivers would be net savings, and could help them clear enough room to acquire a higher-priced defenceman that a rival team decided to waive in the process.

 

Explaining Waiver Priority

Due to finishing last in the NHL standings during the 2021-2022 NHL season, the Montreal Canadiens will have priority in the waiver selection process all the way up to November 1.

According to Article 13.19 of the NHL‘s collective bargaining agreement:

“In the event that more than one Club makes a claim for such Player, he shall: (i) be transferred to the claiming Club having earned the lowest percentage of possible points in the League standing at the time of the request for Waivers, or (ii) if Waivers are requested outside the Regular Season, or the successful Waiver claim is made (i.e., the date the Player would be transferred to a successful claiming Club per this Section), before November 1st then the priority shall be determined by the final standing in the League’s Regular Season schedule in the preceding Regular Season.”

That means that, if a team were to put an interesting player on waivers at the start of the season or shortly thereafter, the Montreal Canadiens would be able to swoop in and add said player to their roster immediately, giving them the depth they need at a position of choice. In the past, we have seen some good players unfortunately put on waivers due to the numbers game on very deep NHL rosters, and that could be an opportunity for the Canadiens to bolster their lineup accordingly and potentially get even younger.

It’s also important to note that, if the Montreal Canadiens do, in fact, put in a claim on a player, they do not lose their priority to put a claim on another player moving forward. This is a rule that exists in fantasy sports leagues but is not decreed anywhere in the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement. The priority will be retained, despite making a previous claim, up until November 1.

This means that the Canadiens retain this advantage throughout camp and into the regular season; allowing them to swoop in on some quality players they would have otherwise had to trade for to acquire. It could be a significant advantage for them to pounce on some potential at positions of need, as they continue to look to improve their roster and develop talent.

The Canadiens’ ability to utilize waivers to create a fluid situation for both their cap structure and roster makeup could make for some creative moves between now and puck drop on October 12.

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