Sunday, September 11, 2005

The $75,000 Waiver Problem

When we take an early look at the new CBA, one of the worst clauses in the CBA is set up to prevent teams from 'hiding" payroll in the minors. Any player in the minors who is paid more than $75,000 in the minors must clear waivers to be brought back to the NHL. If the player is claimed on waivers half his salary will be charged to the team that lost him's cap. This clause has far reaching effects that are bad for the NHL and hockey in general.

One effect of this clause is that any player in the minors who is not on a two-way contract will be very hard to bring back to the NHL. As a result, teams will be unlikely to send to the minors any such players. One example of this that has been discussed in the blogosphere is Alex Auld of the Vancouver Canucks. Auld is a goalie prospect with the Canucks who is signed for $513,000. He will make this money whether he plays in the NHL or in the minors. Auld had a dissapointing year in the AHL last year. In their playoff run, the Manitoba Moose chose to play Wade Flaherty instead of Alex Auld. Auld has played 14 NHL games under three seasons. He will likely have to be the Canucks backup goalie in the NHL this year. If he is sent to the minors, he will have to clear waivers to come back. It is quite possible that he will be claimed. A question this opens up is what happens if Vancouver does send Auld to the minors and a goalie injury occurs so they need an emergency goalie, can they use him as their emergency goalie even if he has not cleared waivers yet? Vancouver also has Brent Johnson signed. He is a decent goalie who might outplay Auld, but does he have a legitimate chance to win the backup job or has he lost it due to the CBA (his contract allows him to be paid $75,000 in the minors)? I'm sure there are other teams with a similar situation which has not yet been documented as well. As a result of the CBA, there are less jobs available then ever in training camp. Some players by their contracts cannot be realistically sent to the minors.

Another effect of this clause is that many veteran AHL players who would normally be signed to provide depth in the NHL systems have signed in Europe because they can make far more money there. This reduces the depth in the NHL. This significantly hurts the AHL. AHL fans should be outraged. Because of greedy NHL people agreeing to a questionable deal, the level of the AHL has been hurt significantly. The NHL hurt the AHL. The NHL hurt the AHL fans. The NHL does not care about the AHL. This is an outrage.

When the AHL is weakened, the development of players in the AHL is hurt. Players improve by playing against players that are better than they are. If many of the better players in the AHL are gone then young players in that league will not develop as well. This hurts the NHL in the future. Again the NHL does not care. The NHL is so shortsighted that they do not see that they are hurting themselves. This is an outrage.

It is quite likely, this $75,000 waiver rule will turn out to be one of the worst things this CBA brought in. Part of this problem could have been easily solved. Under the previous CBA, veteran players had to clear waivers to be sent to the minors and not to be recalled. That is a much more rational situation. Let everyone who makes more than $75,000 have to clear waivers to be sent to the minors. Hold a waiver draft for all these players at the beginning of the year. That solves the problem of recalling players. But that still leaves the problem that $75,000 is too low a cap. It really hurts the AHL. It hurts the development of players who are in the AHL. It hurts the depth of the NHL. It reduces the development of future NHL players. This clause is a serious mistake.

Note: Tom Benjamin has a similar post today.

You're right, this is becoming an important clause that a lot of people overlooked at first. Already a good number of AHL veterans have signed with teams overseas, and it's most likely that none of them would've done this in a non-lockout year if it wasn't for this clause. As you pointed out, this'll have the effect of lowering the level of play in the AHL.
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