Jan 27: Both players have cleared waivers according to James Mirtle of The Athletic, meaning they can be sent to the minor leagues.
Jan 26: The Montreal Canadiens have placed Sami Niku on waivers, as they continue to get players back from injury on the back end. This is actually the second time Niku has been on waivers this season, though the first was in training camp with the Winnipeg Jets when he agreed to a contract termination in order to pursue a different opportunity.
While it’s easy to wonder why anyone would target a defenseman from a team that sits 31st in goals against, Niku actually may draw some interest on the wire. The 25-year-old defenseman has shown he can dominate at the minor league level, including posting a 16-goal, 54-point season in 2017-18, and has generated 16 points in 67 career NHL games. Still, his size and defensive ability raise enough questions that it’s hard to envision him stepping into a regular role on a contender at this point, meaning he might end up in the minor leagues once again.
He isn’t alone, though, as Chris Johnston of TSN reports that Brett Connolly has also been placed on waivers by the Chicago Blackhawks. Connolly cleared waivers in October and was assigned to the minor leagues, where he has spent a good chunk of the season. Now, he’s spent enough time on the NHL roster that he needed waivers again in order to be sent down.
The thing hurting Connolly’s chances at NHL playing time right now is his contract, which carries a $3.5MM cap hit through 2022-23. While he likely could catch on somewhere if he had a more reasonable price tag, there’s little chance that someone would agree to take that contract off waivers. Should he clear, the Blackhawks will be able to once again bury $1.125MM of his cap hit in the minor leagues.