By Melissa Zielinski
Even when it feels as if every rule and regulation has been touched with a fine-tooth comb in your sport of expertise, a word or phrase can catch you by surprise. This occurrence happened as recently as Halloween morning when reports spread through Kettler Capitals Iceplex at the Caps’ morning skate that winger D.J. King had been placed on waivers.
When a certain number of years have passed (typically three) since a player has signed a National Hockey League contract and enters the league, he then becomes waiver eligible.
Right now in the Caps system, Cody Eakin for example is waiver exempt because he hasn’t surpassed the number of years needed in order to reach the waiver phase. On the other hand a player like Mathieu Perreault, who just became waiver eligible this year, would have to be placed on waivers before being reassigned to the Hershey Bears (Washington’s top minor-league affiliate) if the team chose to do so.
The reason for adding the idea of waiver eligibility was to make sure that teams could not hoard their talent and let other teams get a chance to see what’s available in the league.
When a player, like King, is placed on waivers the other 29 teams in the NHL have the opportunity to submit a claim or show that they have interest in obtaining the player from the team in which he’s currently on.
If claimed during that time, the player’s contract is purchased by that team at the end of the waiver period. When more then one team shows interest, the team with the higher priority gets the player. The team with the higher priority is the team that has the lowest percentage in possible points at the time the waiver request was made.
Also, if a waiver request is placed during the offseason (or before November 1) and receives multiple offers, then the player goes to the team with the lowest points during the previous season.
When not claimed, a player can be sent down to the team’s minor-league affiliate if the team decides to do so.
With the success of Cody Eakin during his recent recall to Washington and the rising pool of talent the Caps have added to their roster, King has only been in the lineup once. If there’s no room for King on the Caps’ roster, he must clear waivers to be placed on their AHL affiliate – the Hershey Bears – because he’s not exempt (as in Eakin’s case listed earlier).
According to coach Bruce Boudreau, “you only get better if you play.” When he was placed on waivers, King had 6:58 of ice time, recording one shot on goal (SOG) in one of the team’s first nine games. Undeniably, King wanted to play. Therefore Boudreau and the organization wanted to “see the level of interest that was out there.”
King then had to float through the NHL’s waiver wire for a short period, with an uncertainty of where he’d be playing in one day’s time. He was not claimed by any of the other NHL teams. Last February, King was placed on waivers with the same type of uncertainty, but after he wasn’t claimed, the Caps kept him on its roster.
That was not the case this year, however, and King was sent to the Bears on November 6.
From here, we can’t exactly say what’s in King’s future, but to re-enter the NHL he must clear re-entry waivers. This idea is something new entirely, but in such a complicated process, that will be left for a later date. King’s waiver example is a more regular occurrence, but there are exceptions and differing types of processes. Hopefully through this specific example the waiver process will be a little less confusing the next time it comes up.