Friday, January 12, 2007

Goalies And Re-Entry Waivers

One of the damaging clauses in the new CBA is that of re-entry waivers. It is seen by the NHL as a necessary part of enforcing an unnecessary salary cap. If a player in the minors is making more than $95,000, he must clear waivers to be brought up to the NHL. Nearly any player believed to be NHL calibre will be making more than this amount (as NHL calibre players rarely sign two-way contracts). It ties teams hands, since a player often signs a multi-year contract and that contract determines whether or not he must clear re-entry waivers should he ever get sent to the minors. Thus teams make roster decisions that otherwise make no sense. They send a player who is performing better than another who is on their roster to the minors because the player they are sending down can be brought up later without re-entry waivers. Otherwise, they find themselves with a player they would like to have in the NHL stuck in their minor system and unable to be recalled because he will definitely be lost.

This problem mostly affects players believed to be on the fringe. Third goalies, seventh or eighth defencemen and 13th or beyond forwards. When a player who may make an NHL impact is shipped to the minors, it is most often a goaltender. This is a result of the numbers. Its far more likely for the goalie currently perceived as 3rd best to make an NHL impact than a defenceman who is 7th best or a forward who is 13th best - since it requires only two players ahead of him (instead of 6 or 12).

The team that is most suffering because they have an NHL calibre goalie in the minors that they cannot recall is the Los Angeles Kings. I have earlier written about the Kings two goalie system that began the season. They had Mathieu Garon who was playing a solid game and Dan Cloutier who was playing quite poorly sharing their goalie duties. At the time, it made no sense, why not give the number one job to Garon - at least until Cloutier turns his game around. It turns out that injuries have accomplished this. Dan Cloutier has been out with a hip injury since the end of December. Thus Garon has won the starting job. The Kings have a talented ready backup goalie in Jason LaBarbera waiting in the minors. He was the 2004 AHL MVP. Last season he played 29 NHL games with some success for the Kings. This season he is playing so well that he was chosen to start in the AHL All Star Game. The problem is he would have to clear re-entry waivers and there is little reason to believe he would succeed. The Kings still hope to have LaBarbera in the future, so they do not want to give him away.

When one looks at the waiver wire this season, it is clear that goalies of lesser pedigree than LaBarbera are in demand. Michael Leighton has been claimed on waivers twice. He began the year as Anaheim property and was claimed on waivers by Nashville and yesterday was claimed again by Philadelphia. If Leighton is in demand on the waiver wire, LaBarbera has no hope of clearing waivers.

As a result, Los Angeles has been forced to use Barry Brust as their backup. Though he has performed acceptably so far, it is hard to imagine that LaBarbera's AHL backup is a better selection to play in the NHL than LaBarbera himself. During the period that Garon and Cloutier were hurt simultaneously, Los Angeles even brought up Yutaka Fukufuji (a man who has spent most of his North American career to date in the ECHL). Though he did not wind up playing any NHL games, it is clear that he is a far inferior selection to LaBarbera as an NHL goalie.

I am opposed to anything that keeps the best players available from playing in the NHL. The re-entry waiver rule is clearly doing this. It is making its largest impact on goaltending at the NHL level. It is keeping solid goalies in the minors and forcing teams to recall lesser goalies. This is one preventable way that the NHL is reducing its own talent base. It has other indirect effects where players who would otherwise be NHL calibre chose to play in Europe instead of accepting two-way contracts. This rule reduces NHL talent. As a result it should go.

NOTE: Mathieu Garon is on the injured reserve again. He hurt his finger in the game against San Jose. Fukufuji is back up in the NHL as a backup and Jason LaBarbera, the far superior goalie, is stuck in the AHL. Here ia the TSN story - notice it does not even mention LaBarbera.

Petr Nedved wouldn't be in the NHL today if it weren't for re-entry waivers. Instead, a lesser player would.
Not necessarily, if Edmonton wanted Nedved, they could have send some kind of mid-round draft pick to Philadelphia for him. Anyway, Philadelphia seemed to be playing Nedved. They got him in 21 games this year. They kept putting him on waivers to get somebody to take him - but he was worth an NHL roster spot to them. I think he would have stayed with the Flyers until somebody offered up a mid-round pick for him in a league with no re-entry waivers.

I think you are completely wrong with this assertion.
If Edmonton had to pay his full $1.2 million salary they wouldn't have picked him up, but they got him for just $600,000 in salary so it made sense. Only re-entry waivers allowed them to get Nedved for that price.

And Nedved was not in the NHL. He hadn't played in the NHL since Dec. 9th before playing in Edmonton Jan. 4th. Ottawa called Philadelphia and said, hey, if you want to save some money recall Nedved and we will claim him.

The concept of farm teams is keeping better players out of the NHL. There are better players on many AHL teams than on some NHL teams (St. Louis), but because teams are allowed to keep dozens of players under contract and in the minors other teams can't get at them. Should the NHL abandon the idea of farm clubs because it is keeping better players out of the NHL? If you are against any rule that keeps better players out of the NHL I am guessing you would support abandoning the farm club idea.

I guess you would also support abandoning the whole idea of a salary cap because that is keeping better players out of the NHL too.
I definitely would support abandoning this whole salary cap thing. I thought that was clear from many of the things I have written.

In the pre-salary cap pre-re-entry waiver NHL, Ottawa might have phoned up Philadelphia and offered a mid-round pick for Nedved if hilly paid half his salary (assuming somebody like Edmonton did not do that first).

At any rate, I think that Nedved would be in the NHL today under the old CBA. I don't think anything in this CBA did anything to keep Nedved in the NHL.

I think Nedved is an argument that completely misses the point (and your farm team argument misses the point by a much larger amount). He is in the NHL. Likely he would be in the NHL with the old set of rules too.

However, Jason LaBarbara is in the minors so we can see Barry Brust (his AHL backup) Countless other potential NHLers are in Europe so we can see lesser player take their spots. Does that make the games any better for the fan? How?
"Does that make the games any better for the fan? How?"

I agree with you. I don't think the game is any better now. There are a lot of things wrong with the NHL.

My point is that under the new CBA the re-entry waiver thing sometimes keeps better players out of the NHL (LaBarbera) but in other situations keeps them in the NHL (Nedved). Re-entry waivers aren't the problem, the salary cap is the problem. The only reason for re-entry waivers to exist is because of the salary cap.
These rules do NOT keep Petr Nedved in or out of the NHL. He'd probably be in it without them. That is my responce. And if your point is stubbornly claiming that they did keep Nedved in the NHL, then either you are not bothering to listen to me or you are clinging to a point that is clearly false.
As a Sharks fan I have heard other stuff from the local media about Nolan Schaefer's situation. Nolan from what I read is signed to a two contract and only needed to pass waivers going down. I am not sure why. After other goalies were picked early in the season, the Sharks were able to clear Nolan through. Sharks have just not found the value they want for either of their goalies

LA is particularly suffering since Garon was recently put on IR

I am sorry. You are correct and I am wrong. There was speculation this summer that Schaefer would sign a contract that made re-entry waivers an issue (I thought this had happened) - but the Sharks managed to convince him to come to training camp as a unsigned free agent and later signed him to a contract where this is not a problem. I will remove the incorrect paragraph.
i'd say it does make it better for the fan. and i'll say how, it makes the front office accountable and rewards the intelligence of gms. presidents, and coaches. all positives things. one of the ugly re-entry issues hit my team, we kept three goalies on roster for weeks (three goalies = screwed up team!!) cos our bosses were affraid a minor (i.e. INCREDIBLY MINOR) future talent (i.e. 4th string netminder) might get taken going down, or worse, coming back up. "Cash" isn't even the BLUES best goaltending prospect, is almost certainly in the 30th best nhl propect at goal range (making him useless). Yet the team was apanic!! APANIC!! and they were willing to upset the fragile minded netminders everyone knew were one and two, screw up practices, tick of cash, and then waive him anyway. (um he passed, cos he ain;t really that good).

oh well.

anything that trys the minds that mind the game is a good thing in my book. While the instant implementation might have some unfair associations immediately. the good teams will have it all sussed out.
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