October is a time of transition and migration. Each October, leaves flutter to the ground, birds flock to warmer climates, and hockey players hit the waiver wire by the dozens.
Traditionally, teams like the Vancouver Canucks—lacking in organizational depth, and consequently low in the standings—are meant to benefit from the annual waiver rush, poaching valuable assets from the overstuffed rosters of the league. However, not even the Canucks themselves are immune to the threat of losing a player in the waiver process.
Throughout the course of the 2018/19 season, the Canucks had two of their players claimed from the waiver wire—Brendan Leipsic by the LA Kings in December and Mike McKenna by the Philadelphia Flyers in January. Neither were particularly unique assets, but they still represent a loss in value for Vancouver—and something they’ll certainly try to avoid in 2019/20.
With that being said, it’s time to look at those contracted Canucks who stand a good chance of hitting waivers sometime before opening night—October 2 at Edmonton, for the record—and to assess their likelihood of being claimed by another team.
Guaranteed To Hit Waivers
The following players will be hitting waivers at some point during the preseason, barring some sort of miraculous occurrence.
Francis Perron, LW
Perron was acquired from the San Jose Sharks during the offseason, but the transaction wasn’t made with an NHL roster spot in mind. He’ll bring valuable scoring to the Comets’ roster without counting toward their veteran limit, but there’s just no room for Perron in the Canucks’ already crowded forward corps. He may be in line for a call-up or two as the season progresses, but he will absolutely start the year in Utica.
Chances Of Being Claimed: Very little. There’s always the possibility of a team being struck by several preseason injuries and needing a fill-in forward, but even then there’s almost certain to be better players than Perron—who has yet to play an NHL game—available.
Tyler Graovac, C
The enormous Graovac was signed as a free agent to bring stability to the Utica Comets’ center depth—and that’s where he’ll be when the season gets underway. If the highly-touted Adam Gaudette is going to struggle to earn himself a spot with the Canucks at training camp, there’s little chance of an AHL vet like Graovac being given a serious look—and that’s okay, because he’s needed in Utica right away.
Chances Of Being Claimed: Almost zero. Graovac has already cleared waivers four times in his career, so that’s not likely to change at the age of 26.
Justin Bailey, RW
Bailey has spent chunks of the last four seasons in the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers, but he’s mainly plied his trade as an AHL forward—and that’s what the Canucks signed him to be. Like Perron, Bailey brings AHL scoring experience without counting against the Comets’ veteran limit—making him extra valuable to the farm club.
Chances Of Being Claimed: Infinitesimal. Bailey already cleared waivers last year, so there’s no reason to believe he won’t this season.
Zane McIntyre, G
McIntyre was signed to be a veteran presence in the Utica crease, and that’s where he’s likely to end up by the end of training camp. There is always the chance that one of Jacob Markstrom or Thatcher Demko is injured during the preseason, which would necessitate McIntyre being kept up beyond opening night—but that would only be a temporary circumstance.
Chances Of Being Claimed: There’s always a slight chance that another team suffers a goaltending injury and looks for a temporary fill-in—that’s exactly how the Canucks lost Mike McKenna last season—but there are certain to be more experienced goalies than McIntyre available on the cusp of the regular season.
Richard Bachman, G
Bachman’s status is still up in the air, making it difficult to speculate on his future. He suffered a season-ending injury in 2018/19 after just nine games with the Comets, and hasn’t hit the ice since. The signing of Zane McIntyre suggests that the organization might not expect Bachman to come back—which could mean he stays on the IR and never hits waivers. If he arrives at training camp, however, he’s a waiver guarantee.
Chances Of Being Claimed: As with McIntyre, there’s always a small possibility of a goalie getting claimed—but Bachman would be so far down the list of waived goalies that no team would reasonably take a shot at him.
Likely To Hit Waivers
The following players are still in the running for a roster spot, but have been pencilled out of the lineup already by most pundits. They’re likely, but not guaranteed, to hit waivers by the end of training camp.
Tim Schaller, LW
With a rich two-year UFA contract in hand, Schaller proceeded to play himself off the Vancouver roster in 2018/19. Late-season injuries brought him back into the fold, but with only three goals to his name for the entire year it would seem likely that Schaller has been passed on the depth chart by a number of other forwards. The Canucks won’t be able to trade Schaller’s contract without retention, but they can bury it in Utica—which is the expected outcome.
Chances Of Being Claimed: With another year at $1.9 million remaining, there’s no chance of another team plucking Schaller from waivers. If anyone wanted him, they’d likely swing a trade—as that would give them the ability to send a contract back or ask for retention.
Loui Eriksson, LW/RW
The Eriksson situation has to be resolved in some way, and this seems like the most probable outcome. Coach Travis Green has made it clear that Eriksson won’t be afforded a spot on the roster on the merit of his $6 million salary alone, and he’s in serious danger of being outworked by multiple other wingers at training camp. By sending Eriksson to Utica, the organization can send a strong message about accountability—and perhaps induce a painless exit from his onerous contract.
Chances Of Being Claimed: Tom Sestito has a better chance of getting in the Ring of Honour than Eriksson does of being claimed on waivers.
Reid Boucher, LW
At this point, Boucher has probably run out of chances to make the Canucks’ roster—though there are some who will argue that he was never given a fair shake. At the age of 25, Boucher seems to be established as a classic “tweener”—a player who can dominate the minor leagues but has several holes in his game that prevent him from translating his production to the NHL.
Chances Of Being Claimed: If the Canucks were to waive Boucher mid-season, there’s a fair chance that an injury-stricken team would take a chance on him—but there are sure to be more attractive players available on waivers at the end of the preseason, which should allow him to slip through.
Ashton Sautner, LD
Sautner looks ready for an NHL depth job, but he’s unfortunately caught in a bit of a numbers game. He’d have to leapfrog both Alex Biega and the newly-signed Oscar Fantenberg for a spot on the roster—which isn’t impossible, but remains pretty unlikely.
Chances Of Being Claimed: Sautner is the sort of player who could absolutely be claimed on waivers, even in late September/early October. He’s just 25 and has NHL experience—and would thus be an able fill-in for a team that suffered a blueline injury or two in the preseason.
On The Waiver Bubble
The following players will have to battle for their spot on the roster, and there’s a possibility that each of them hits the waiver wire.
Josh Leivo, LW
Few would consider Leivo under risk of being waived, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility. The Vancouver depth chart is jam-packed with middle-six wingers, and Leivo will still have to fight for his spot despite his new $1.5 million contract. Leivo’s place on the roster isn’t written in ink quite yet.
Chances Of Being Claimed: Leivo has yet to hit waivers in his career, and it’s hard to imagine a potential 20-goal scorer going unclaimed, even amidst the preseason waiver rush. He has the sort of offensive pedigree that would not be ignored.
Nikolay Goldobin, LW
Goldobin’s place in the lineup is a true enigma. When the 2018/19 season opens up, Goldobin could feasibly find himself anywhere from the top line of the Canucks to the top line of the Comets—or perhaps to another organization altogether. Few players in the franchise have more riding on the upcoming preseason than Goldobin.
Chances Of Being Claimed: Goldobin notched 27 points in 63 games last year on a Canucks roster that struggled for offense. In other words, there’s almost zero chance that he passes through waivers unclaimed—at least one team will take a gamble on his offensive potential.
Alex Biega, RD
Biega’s NHL career was never supposed to last this long—and he’s had the prospect of waivers hanging over his head for the entirety of it. Once again, Biega enters training camp in a battle to keep his job. There are several d-men lower than him on the depth chart that will be aiming to usurp him.
Chances Of Being Claimed: There will undoubtedly be defensemen injured during the preseason, and a free Biega on waivers makes for a rather enticing temporary replacement. That being said, at age 31 there’s always the chance that Biega is passed up in lieu of younger talent with greater potential.
Tyler Motte, F
Motte was such a ubiquitous part of the Canucks’ roster in 2018/19 that its easy to forget he was never expected to make the team. Now he enters 2019/20 pencilled into most fan lineups—though always at the bottom-end, and thus always in danger of losing his spot to an upstart. Players like Motte don’t traditionally have lengthy careers in the big leagues.
Chances Of Being Claimed: Motte’s pretty “dime-a-dozen,” but he also plays with the sort of energy that catches the eye of old-school scouts. He’s still just 24, and there’s a solid chance of another team taking a flyer on him.
Oscar Fantenberg, D
As a new UFA signing, the Canucks will most likely aim to keep Fantenberg on the NHL roster—but that’s not an outright guarantee. Fantenberg will be battling with Alex Biega, Ashton Sautner, and Guillaume Brisebois for his job, and it’s not inconceivable that each of them outperforms him—though he definitely has the inside track as of now.
Chances Of Being Claimed: As a right-handed defenseman with NHL experience, Fantenberg is a textbook example of the kind of player who is claimed on waivers rather frequently. Someone would probably nab him for organizational depth or an injury replacement.
There are still several players on the roster that can be sent down to the Utica Comets without having to pass through waivers, as their current contract status grants them an exception.
Those players are:
Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Quinn Hughes, Thatcher Demko, Adam Gaudette, Zack MacEwen, Olli Juolevi, Kole Lind, Jonah Gadjovich, Lukas Jasek, Petrus Palmu, Guillaume Brisebois, Brogan Rafferty, Josh Teves, Mitch Eliot, Jalen Chatfield, Michael DiPietro, and Jake Kielly.
Jett Woo is also waiver-exempt, but he is not eligible for assignment to the AHL due to his age.