Jan 5: Both players have cleared waivers and can be assigned to the AHL.
Jan 4: Two veteran forwards have been placed on waivers today, as Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports that Zack Smith of the Chicago Blackhawks and Marko Dano of the Winnipeg Jets have both hit the wire.
Smith, 32, was recently ruled healthy for the Blackhawks after undergoing back surgery in March, but may not end up on the opening day roster after all. Placing the veteran on waivers already suggests that Smith is headed for the AHL or taxi squad, though even if he clears he may not necessarily be sent down right away.
Normally a player with 662 games of NHL experience would be a likely candidate to be claimed on waivers, but in Smith’s case, it seems very unlikely. Not only is he coming off a major injury and saw his play deteriorate last season, but he is also set to earn $3.25MM this season in the final season of his four-year contract. That cap hit is high enough, but given that it is all due in salary, it’s also probably too pricey even for rebuilding clubs that may need some more veteran experience in the lineup.
Dano meanwhile is just trying to hold onto an NHL career that barely ever existed in the first place. The 27th overall pick in 2013 has played just 141 games at the NHL level, including just three last season with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The 26-year-old signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Jets in November and had been playing overseas, but suffered an injury and was limited to just two games with Trencin Dukla of the Slovakian league.
After going up and down, traded back and forth, and clearing waivers previously, it seems very unlikely that anyone would take a chance on Dano at this point. But if he can get his game back on track (and remain healthy), perhaps he can still be a useful taxi squad player for the Jets in a condensed season.