One of the trickier aspects of setting a post-camp roster is the waiver requirement. It is believed of any team’s prospects who aren’t on the NHL roster that they aren’t NHL ready, but possess the potential to get there some day. The problem is that sometimes a player reaches a level of experience that forces them to go through waivers to be demoted before they’ve reached that potential.
Some teams, like the Maple Leafs with Joe Colborne in 2013, trade these players and acquire an asset rather than losing them for nothing. Other times, a team takes its chances and waive a player, hoping nobody has the roster space or desire to claim them. Frank Corrado was waived last year, and to the consternation of many Canucks fans, was claimed by the Leafs. There are also likely some who get their roster spot over more deserving candidates because their team is scared to lose them. We’ll leave you to speculate on that one.
So, who are some of the players who could force teams to make tough decisions in October?
- Josh Leivo – Leivo has been a pretty good minor league scorer so far, and possesses a definite big-league shot. Last year, in 12 games with the Leafs, he had five goals. His skating has improved, and he’s got a big enough body to create space for himself and his big release. He’s also not in the realm of a can’t-miss prospect, and his peak role is likely as a secondary scorer. The Leafs have a lot of young players fighting for spots, and Leivo may be in tough. What makes it difficult for Toronto is that Leivo also doesn’t have quite the profile of a guy that brings back an asset. If he can’t make the team, and they think he can still be a player, they may decide the odds of keeping him through the waiver process are better than the odds of the late draft pick they might get becoming an NHL player.
- Scott Harrington – Harrington had a whirlwind year from July 2015 to June 2016. A second round pick of the Penguins in 2011, he made his NHL debut for Pittsburgh in 2015. He was then dealt to Toronto as part of the return for Phil Kessel. His season started well, making the team out of camp, and playing 15 games before being sent to the Marlies. He was eventually injured, missing all but 17 games. In June he was traded to Columbus for Kerby Rychel. The Blue Jackets are in a low-risk situation with Harrington. Even if they end up having to waive him, a condition of their trade with the Leafs was that should he be claimed, they’d also receive a fourth round pick. The Blue Jackets can afford to take the risk, knowing they will still get an asset in return should they lose him.
- Matt Puempel – Drafted by the Senators in the first round of 2011, Puempel looks like another player hoping to be a solid depth scorer. Last year he had 17 goals in 34 AHL games, but just two goals in 26 NHL games. We’ve written about Puempel’s push to get regular playing time before. The Senators have a pretty deep group of forwards to begin with. Puempel may be one of the more likely players to get traded on this list. As a former first round pick, he’s got the pedigree to entice a team into giving up a serious return, maybe a second or third round pick. But given the Senators roster, he may look good enough for one GM, even if he’s passed over in Ottawa.
- Ryan Murphy – Murphy was the 12th overall pick in 2011, and produced enough offensively in junior to raise hopes. He first played in the NHL in the 2014 season. Murphy got 48 games in, while playing another 22 for the Charlotte Checkers in the AHL. In the two years since then, he’s played progressively more in the AHL, and progressively less in the NHL. 35 points in 124 games as a 23 year old defenseman is impressive, and his AHL numbers are typically at or just below a point-per-game pace. There’s definitely still something there, but the Hurricanes seem to be giving him less rope every year. While it’s hard to know their thinking, they may see training camp as his last opportunity to demand a spot. The Hurricanes defensive depth provides yet another roadblock.