Decrypting the 2005 NHL CBA: NHL Waivers – The Ultimate Waiver Bible

By , December 9, 2010 12:14 am
The NHL CBA was actually prophesied in the 16th century by this old dude

The NHL CBA was actually prophesied in the 16th century by this old dude

NOTE: There is now a permanent link to this Waiver FAQ in the menu, under “Resources” (2005 NHL CBA Waiver FAQ).

One thing that confuses the heck out of people is a player’s waiver status. It is so confusing that even CBA guru’s for NHL team’s get it wrong from time to time. Case in point of this is a situation that happened before the start of last year in which Rick Olczyk was asked about Gilbert Brule’s waiver status. In fairness, Olczyk had not yet researched the question when asked. But he responded by saying that Brule did not need to clear waivers to be sent down. Several bloggers (including yours truly) and CBA-expert-wannabe’s pointed out that Brule did in fact have to clear waivers. Several panicked at the thought that the Oilers might actually send him down at the start of the year and foolishly place him on waivers (which I think was a bit of a stretch, but still was an interesting case proving how cryptic the CBA is).

Before I sound like a know it all when it comes to the CBA for calling the Brule status right, I can say that I’ve made my share of mistakes too and have had to re-read over many different sections dozens of times to get a slight grasp of a particular section. It’s confusing probably to even the fellows that wrote it, no doubt. At any rate, I’ve done some digging around, and thanks to some guys who have done a bit of ground work such as NHLSCAP, cross-referenced with the CBA and various smart forumers, I figured I’d clear up a few questions/misunderstandings in regards to waiver status. This eventually will be a bit of a waivers resource for you junior GMs out there, and as such I’ll try and update this as required and if anyone has anything to add to it. Soooo.. *breathes deeply*, here goes.


What is the waiver period?
The waiver period for a team starts 12 days prior to the start of the regular season and ends on the day following the last day of the club’s playing season (including playoffs). During the holiday roster freeze (midnight local time on December 19th to midnight local time on December 27th), players can’t be placed on waivers. However, if they are placed on waivers/re-entry waivers before the freeze, all bets are off as the player can be claimed if the waiver period overlaps into the freeze (and therefore would need to report to the new team even though it’s during the freeze).

(Source: Sections 13.2 and 13.15 of the CBA)

Who is exempt from waivers?
Refer to this table (originally in the CBA, but doctored by NHLSCAP)):

AGE Years from signing 1st NHL contract NHL Games Played Years from signing 1st NHL contract NHL Games Played
18 6 (* – 4) 80 5 (* – 3) 160
19 5 (* – 4) 80 4 (* – 3) 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

* – this number is reduced to 4 years for goalies and 3 years for skaters if the player plays in 11+ NHL games in a single season at age 18 or 19 (this is one reason why people panic when junior players come over for their tryouts and we don’t return them to junior before game number 11 – the other reason being that it burns a year of their 3-year entry-level deal).

Some coles notes on that above chart (my interpretations which may not be correct, so feel free to correct me):
Age” – the age when the player signed their first NHL contract (i.e. their entry-level deal if they were under 25 at the time, or their first contract if they were over 25 at the time).
Years from signing 1st NHL contract” – this is how many seasons after the player signed their first contract in the age column that the waiver eligibility will kick in. So for example, if a player is 20 years old when they sign that first deal, they will start becoming waiver eligible 3 seasons later.
NHL Games Played” – this is an either/or thing with the previous column. It’s not an “and” situation. This is the number of games that the player would have to play before becoming waiver eligible. So, in the example of the player that signed their entry-level deal at age 20, that player will become waiver eligible if they play in 160 NHL games OR 3 seasons pass (whichever comes first).
Note – I believe that for players 20 and over, the counters start ticking once they’ve got a season under their belts in which the played at least one NHL game.

(Source: Section 13.4 of the CBA with some good decoding done by NHLSCAP)

How the heck is waiver order determined?
Before November 1st of the NHL season, the order is determined by reverse standings of the previous year. For example, up until November 1st, 2010, the Oilers had first dibs of any player waived for the 2010/11 season.

After November 1st of the NHL season, the order is determined by reverse standings of the current year (as of the time the player was waived). So, for example, at the time of writing this, the New York Islanders are in last place and the Pittsburgh Penguins are in 1st place. That means that the New York Islanders would have first dibs on any player waived. If they put in a claim for a waived player, they would be guaranteed to get that player. If the Penguins placed a claim on a waived player, they would only be able to acquire that player if no other team put in a claim for said player.

(Source: Section 13.19 of the CBA)

If no team claims a player within 24 hours, that player clears waivers, right?
Kinda sorta. Here’s a helpful chart to explain that a bit better. On weekends, it actually takes 48 hours for a player to clear waivers.

Monday 24 hrs Tuesday
Tuesday 24 hrs Wednesday
Wednesday 24 hrs Thursday
Thursday 24 hrs Friday
Friday 24 hrs Saturday
Saturday 48 hrs Monday
Sunday 48 hrs Tuesday

* – Note: both the DISPATCHED day and the EXPIRY day have a 12:00PM (noon) “New York Time” (i.e. Eastern time) deadline. That means that if a player is waived on Monday at 1:00 PM, the waiver period actually lasts until Wednesday at 12:00PM (noon) New York Time. If that player is waived at 11:00PM on Monday, then the waiver period is until 12:00PM (noon) New York Time on Tuesday.

(Source: Section 13.18 of the CBA)

If a player clear waivers, does the waiving team have to assign them to another team immediately?
Technically a team doesn’t even have to assign the player to another club. But if they wanted to, they actually have 30 days from the point of clearing waivers to do so, so long as the player has not played in more than 10 NHL games since clearing waivers.

Can a team that picked up a player on waivers loan/trade that player in the same season?
If Team A waives a player, and then Team B successfully claims that player, Team B needs to offer the player to all teams that put claims in for that player when Team A waived that player (note: they aren’t offering to trade the player… they’re offering to give the player up). This rule only exists for the current season that the player was claimed (up until the termination of playoffs for that season).

(Source: Section 13.20 (b) of the CBA)

As for the claiming team loaning the player to another club, I do know that they can do this. However, from what I’ve heard, the team attempting to assign the player would first need to offer the player to the original team (that lost them in waivers) first, as well as any teams that placed an unsuccessful waiver claim on the player when the player was originally waived. I am unable to find a source for that, so if someone can confirm that, please let me know.

Whats the deal with players playing in non-North American leagues who want to come over to the NHL after the season started. I heard they have to clear waivers first.
This is correct. In addition, in order for the team that acquired that player to trade or loan that player, they will need to clear waivers first. So, if the Oilers had tried to sign Jagr last year (part way into the NHL season, and while Jagr was playing in Europe), for example, they would have needed to first place him on waivers with all other 29 teams getting a free crack at him for the same contract. If no team put in a claim, the Oilers would get to keep him. Should they decide to later trade him to another club that season, or demote him to the minors (for example), he would need to be placed on waivers again, giving all 29 teams another crack at picking him up for the same contract… again.

(Source: Section 13.23 (b) of the CBA)

Confuse me with some more of this waiver talk, sage Racki… gimme some interesting factoids.
Here’s a little known tidbit. If Team A waives a player, and Team B claims them and later waives them in the season, and Team A is the only team to put in a claim for that player, they could then re-assign that player without them having to clear waivers again (so long as they do it within 30 days or before 10 NHL games are played by that player since reclaiming them).

(Source: Section 13.22 of the CBA)

Another interesting one… when Souray was requesting a trade and the Oil were playing hardball after no good trade became available, many fans (including myself), albeit partly in jest, suggested that we should send him to the ECHL. Unless a player is on an entry-level deal, they do not actually have to report to the ECHL. They would not risk suspension. A player needs to give their permission (unless they’re on an entry-level deal) in order to be demoted to the ECHL.

(Source: Section 13.11 of the CBA)

If a team claims a player off waivers, do they get bumped down to the bottom of the waiver order?
No, there is no change in waiver order once a team has successfully claimed a player. It still goes by standings.

(Source: Section 13.19 of the CBA and NHLSCAP – I agree… “there is nothing in article 13 that stipulates this”.)


Any player that needs to clear waivers when being re-assigned from an NHL club needs to clear re-entry waivers when called back up, right?
That is an oversimplification as there are several exemptions to this. The best way to think of it (thank you NHLSCAP) is to think of it as the other way around – players don’t normally need to clear re-entry waivers… unless….

1) They are on a 1-way contract and had to clear waivers on the way down.
2) They are on a 2-way contract with their AHL salary in excess of $105k. Note, this is the case as of the 2009-10 season, and beyond, but this may change when the CBA is next negotiated. The original figure was $75k in 2005/06, but scaled up to the current number of $105k for 2009/10 and beyond (i.e. it will stay at that number until the NHL/NHLPA renegotiate that figure).

To make things more confusing, point #2 does not apply if (i.e. these players won’t need to clear re-entry waivers if..):

a) the player is a goaltender that has played in 180 or more North American professional hockey games (NHL, AHL, and ECHL) but has not spent more than 80 games on the NHL roster over the prior 2 seasons, or more than 40 games in the immediate prior season.
b) the player is a forward/defenseman that has played in 320 or more North American professional hockey games (NHL, AHL, and ECHL) but has not spent more than 80 games on the NHL roster over the prior 2 seasons, or more than 40 games in the immediate prior season.
Note: for points a and b above, this includes time on IR (injured reserve) and LTIR (longterm injured reserve)

(Source: Sections 50.9 (a-g) of the CBA with some clever decoding done by NHLSCAP)

What about emergency recalls? How do those work?
A player on loan to a club of any league affiliated with the NHL may be recalled under emergency conditions at any time for the duration of the emergency. The player must be immediately returned to the loaning club when the emergency condition ends.

An emergency condition is deemed as when the loaning club’s roster is reduced (by reasons of injury, illness or suspension) below 2 goalies, 6 defensemen or 12 forwards

(Source: Section 13.12 (m) of the CBA)


Thats it. Simple right? OK, not even close. There is a lot to digest here. Like I said earlier, the CBA is very complex and often misinterpreted (much like the writings of the guy in the picture above). If you have any questions, or comments about the CBA, or corrections… please feel free to do so in the comments. I make no claims of knowing the CBA perfectly, so there could be mistakes in here, but this is my understanding, in addition to a lot of help from external sources such as,, and forum posters.

2005 NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement

Corrections? Feel free to place them in the comments, or use the contact us form from the help menu

11 Responses to “Decrypting the 2005 NHL CBA: NHL Waivers – The Ultimate Waiver Bible”

  1. Ktown says:

    Thanks for the research, Racki – this is great stuff, and will likely come in handy closer to the trade deadline!

  2. chucker says:

    What a mess to research. Great work on this, I know it’s confusing at best how one determines a player’s waiver rights. This clears it up pretty good.

  3. Racki says:

    Thanks guys, glad I can help. And if anyone has any questions on other aspects of waivers, please feel free to ask, and I’ll do my best to find the answer if I don’t already know it, and update the doc as necessary.

  4. dawgtoy says:

    Nice work Rack!

  5. Haboiler says:

    Great work Racki!

  6. Mr.Majestyk says:

    nice job Racki, glad it wasn’t me doing all that research. My method of figuring out all the waiver issues is to come in here and ask you guys. I’m an idea man, I can’t be bothered with the small details! haha.

  7. Racki says:

    LOL thanks again guys. Really, I think having a resource like that here will come in handy, and I’d hope to add to it more.

    Like I said too, if people have any specific questions they want researched, mention it here and someone will answer. I know there are some other smart CBA people here that aren’t admins… I think LNOF is a good one if I recall. This will kind of be a running doc, and I will eventually expand to other areas of the CBA over time.

    NHLSCAP probably has the best explanation of the CBA in layman’s terms that I’ve seen, but even a few things there needed to be dumb down more (or some topics not covered there I felt needed to be added). I’ll try and keep it so that you don’t need a university degree to know an answer to a CBA question.

  8. Oil Trader says:

    Hey, Racki, any idea where a guy could find a list of waiver pickups from the last few years? Althought there are always a few players that change hands every year (e.g. “Tubthumper” Jones), I get the impression that there are actually very few that get picked up in the windup to opening night (Grabner being the obvious one last year).

    We in Oilerland are always sweating someone picking up one of our AHL assignees (“Let’s see, the Oilers finished 31st out of 30 clubs last year, approximately 175 points behind us, and this guy’s not good enough to make the squad … sure, let’s take a flyer on him!!”). But really, with everyone concentrating on their own personnel and struggling with caps and contracts, how common is it at this time of year?

  9. Racki says:

    Welcome to the site, Oil Trader… I don’t think it’s too common, but I can’t say for certain. As far as a site that has them… I wonder if maybe you might have to go to or TSN or Sportsnet or a place like that and check the transactions that occur around this time of year.

  10. Oil Trader says:

    Hmm … so I was curious enough to look this up. I post it here in case it is of interest to others.

    Number of players picked up off waivers leading up to opening day roster submission:
    (2011 so far – one, Nick Johnson)
    2010/11: 2 – one re-waived Feb 8 (Ritola) and (oops!) Michael Grabner
    2009/10: 4 – including two returned later (Smolenak & Bourque) & our own Sugartits heading off to New York
    2008/09: 6 – including two returned later (Lindstrom & Janik), one re-waived in November (Ellis) and our own pickup of SmacIntyre from Florida
    2007/08: 1 – Karel Pilar, later returned
    2006/07: 5 – four of which hit the waiver wire again in Oct (Traverse & Stewart), Nov (Sabourin) and Feb (Thorburn)

    So, ignoring 2011 (that story has yet to be told), over the last 5 years there have been 18 waiver wire pickups coming out of training camp, 5 of which were later re-waived and picked up and 6 re-waived and passed on by their original clubs. That leaves a grand total of seven (7) players “lost” to waivers at the roster deadline over the last five years.

    The fans & the ‘sphere (and obviously management) fret and worry about losing prospects like Deslaurier and Chorney, but the reality is that while it IS possible (see Grabner), it’s fairly unlikely at this time of year. Teams are focussed on their own personnel & facing hard decisions about their own 23-man limit, as well as being handcuffed by the 50-contract limit. And for a GM to grab a waiver wire pickup at this time of year is a massive admission of failure to provide the team with enough talent. I’m not sure that a last-place club like the Oil have that much to worry about.

    As a side note, there have been far more “permanent” waiver pickups every year in the 3-4 weeks AFTER the roster deadline, when GMs & coaches have had more time to assess their clubs and injuries have started to kick in. So temporarily sheltering a player at the deadline (for example, Deslaurier & Dubnyk last season) leads to a far greater chance of losing them once they are exposed.

  11. Racki says:

    Great research, thanks! I’ve heard others in the media say the same thing, that these pickups are uncommon. No one really cares to pick up our offcasts. So on that note, I can see them putting Chorney.. maybe Brule.. on waivers and that player just going on through. Maybe they get picked up.. but I don’t see it as a big deal. Do it now.

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