CBA 101 Part 1: Waivers and Re-Entry Waivers


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I know some people care about the rules and regulations within the CBA more than others.

One thing is for sure though, these rules and regulations directly impact the team that can be put on the ice. To me, that makes it fascinating!

Some of the topics are quite simple, while others are very complex. Heck, Paul Holmgren doesn’t even seem to understand it all. So throughout the off-season, I plan to put together a series of CBA related posts to help paint a clearer picture. It will also allow us to reference these articles when writing about other topics, rather than have to re-explain how waivers work, for example. I could dive into every single minute detail of all of these processes, but I’m going to keep it at a relatively high level. My goal here is to help people, that maybe aren’t as fanatical as me, understand it at a basic level.

I thought that I would start with waivers and re-entry waivers because they happen very frequently and are quite easy to understand.

First, let’s define the two terms. Waivers is the process by which a player (who is not exempt from waivers) can ultimately be sent down to the AHL (or another league). Re-entry waivers is almost the opposite of that. Some players, if in the AHL, must clear a form of waivers, called re-entry, waivers in order to make it back up to the NHL. So waivers sends a player down, re-entry waivers calls a player up.


When a player is placed on waivers, every other team in the league is granted an opportunity to “claim” that player. The claim order is based upon reverse standings, so the worst team gets the first chance. If a player is claimed by another team, the new team simply gets that player without compensation and assumes the existing contract. So if the Flyers waived Jody Shelley and Minnesota claimed him (who knows why…), Minnesota simply assumes Shelley’s existing contract. The Flyers get no compensation and are not responsible for any more of Shelley’s contract. Michael Leighton was acquired via a waiver claim. Whereas Ossi Vaananen and Glen Metropolit were lost by the Flyers as they were claimed by other teams.

If a player successfully “clears” waivers, meaning no team put in a “claim”, the team can then freely assign him to the AHL (or another league). Technically, you don’t have to send them down; you can waive someone, they clear, and then you do nothing. Probably 95% of waiver claims, however, are with the intention of sending the player down to the AHL.

A critical component of waivers, is exemption. Simply put, not every player has to clear waivers in order to be sent down. Those players are “waiver exempt”. This is how the Flyers can recall, and send down, players like Harry Zolnierczyk and Erik Gustafsson at will.

Some people mistakenly assume that if a player is on his first contract (entry level contract) they can be sent down freely, but that isn’t the case. For example, some people suggested the Flyers could have sent Sergei Bobrovsky to the AHL if they would have acquired a goalie at the trade deadline. Even though Bob is only in the 2nd year of his contract, he had played more than enough games to be exempt from waivers. So he would have had to clear waivers, which almost certainly would not have happened.

Waiver exemption is determined by 2 things: when the contract was signed, and how many games that player has played. Capgeek provides a nice chart that shows the breakdown.

Goalies Skaters
AGE Years from signing first NHL contract NHL games played Years from signing first NHL contract NHL games played
18 6 80 5 160
19 5 80 4 160
20 4 80 3 160
21 4 60 3 80
22 4 60 3 70
23 3 60 3 60
24 2 60 2 60
25 1 1

Re-entry Waivers – (Edit 5/12/2013: with the new CBA re-entry waivers have been eliminated):

Typically, the players that go through re-entry waivers are mostly players that, at one time or another, were buried in the minors so that the NHL team could be rid of the player’s cap hit (i.e. Sean Avery, Wade Redden, Michael Leighton, Matt Walker). Players that have played in 320 or more games (NHL, AHL, or ECHL) and goalies that have played in 180 or more games games are eligible for re-entry waivers.

As an example, Michael Leighton had to clear re-entry waivers in order to be recalled up to the Flyers because he meets the games played requirements. Sean Avery is the most known example of re-entry waivers. Dallas waived him (he cleared) and placed him in the AHL; then they later recalled him where he was claimed on re-entry waivers by the Rangers. The LA Kings also claimed Randy Jones from the Flyers on re-entry waivers; however Jones was in the last year of his contract so there were no ramifications beyond that given season.

The interesting thing about re-entry waivers is that if a player is claimed on re-entry waivers, the team that placed him on re-entry waivers is still responsible for 50% of the contract, for the remainder of the contract. So when the Rangers claimed Avery on re-entry waivers, the Rangers took on a cap hit of $1.9375 million and the Stars were responsible for the other $1.9375 million for the rest of the contract.

One-Way vs Two-Way Contracts

One other common misconception regarding waivers, is with the terms “one-way” or “two-way” contract. People tend to think that if a player signs a “two-way” contract, that that player can be shuffled to and from the AHL at will. That is not correct. As stated above, waiver eligibility is determined strictly by when the contract was signed, and how many games that player has accumulated. The only thing a “two-way” contract does is simply define two different salaries for the player. One if they are in the NHL, and one if they are in the AHL.

So even if the Flyers were to sign some NCAA Free Agent (think Read or Gustafsson) to a one-way contract, that player could still be sent down, and recalled from the AHL whenever they wanted; until they played enough games to no longer be exempt from waivers. Conversely, if Ryan Suter agreed to sign a two-way contract with the Flyers this offseason, that does not mean the Flyers could send him to the AHL freely. (I clearly took this an example to an extreme.)

In Summary:

  1. Until a player plays enough games, or enough time has passed, they are exempt from waivers and can be sent down to the AHL freely.
  2. A player who is not exempt from waivers, must clear waivers before they can be sent to the AHL.
  3. Players that have accumulated enough games in the NHL or AHL can also be eligible for re-entry waivers.
  4. Re-entry waivers is a similar process but on the way back up to the NHL.
  5. If a team claims a player on re-entry waivers, they are only responsible for 50% of the player’s contract. The original team is responsible for the other 50%.
  6. A two-way contract means nothing as far as waiver eligibility. It simply defines an NHL and an AHL salary.

I hope this was educational for some of you. I’m also planning articles on 35+ contracts, how the cap is calculated, and long term injured reserve. If anyone would like to see a particular topic, feel free to comment!

Waivers: CBA Article 13
Capgeek has a very good FAQ that has all of this information as well.