Saturday: While Smith was claimed by Tampa Bay, Johnston reports that Rask and Bunnaman both cleared waivers.
Friday: The waiver wire is busy today as three teams have exposed players to the rest of the league. Chris Johnston of TSN reports that Gemel Smith of the Detroit Red Wings, Victor Rask of the Minnesota Wild, and Connor Bunnaman of the Philadelphia Flyers have all been placed on waivers.
Smith is on waivers for the second time this season after being claimed by the Red Wings from the Tampa Bay Lightning last month. He ended up playing three games for the club and registered one assist, while playing three more for the Grand Rapids Griffins on a conditioning loan. While he’s now available to the rest of the league once again, the 27-year-old did finally get a chance to play with his brother Giavani Smith for the first time in their hockey careers. Signed for two years and carrying a $750K cap hit, it seems unlikely that anyone other than the Lightning would put in a claim. If they do and are the only team to do so, he could be assigned to the minor leagues.
Bunnaman also was on waivers earlier, clearing just before the season started. He’s been up and down (and up and down) since, but now with 15 games under his belt this season needed waivers again in order to be assigned to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The 23-year-old forward doesn’t have a single point in those 15 contests and now sits at just three points in 54 career games (plus four scoreless postseason appearances). Also signed through 2022-23 with a $750K cap hit, he too seems like an unlikely candidate for claim.
Then there is Rask, who will certainly generate most of the headlines among this trio. The 28-year-old center is in the final season of a six-year, $24MM contract he signed in 2016 with the Carolina Hurricanes and already cleared waivers in January. There isn’t any team in the league who will touch that contract, given how poorly Rask’s time in Minnesota has gone. Acquired in 2019 in a one-for-one deal that saw Nino Niederreiter go the other way, Rask has recorded 22 goals and 52 points in 149 games with the Wild. His ice time has continued to drop, to the point where even when he does get into the lineup it’s for just a handful of shifts. In each of his last five appearances, he’s logged fewer than 10 minutes.
Notably, even when the Wild assign him to the minor leagues they will receive just $1.125MM of cap relief. What they do gain is a roster spot, one that perhaps could go to a prospect like Marco Rossi, who continues to light up the AHL. Rossi has points in all but eight of his 35 games with the Iowa Wild this season, including six in his past four outings.