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How waiver eligibility will impact the Canucks’ roster in 2023/24 (and beyond)

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
11 months ago
At the forward position, at least, the Vancouver Canucks finally have some serious depth heading into the 2023/24 season.
But roster depth can be like money, in that having more of it can sometimes create more problems. Or, if not problems, at least more difficult decisions.
The Canucks’ bottom-six projects to be absolutely stuffed by the time Training Camp 2023 rolls around. As of right now, the presumed top-six is some combination of Elias Pettersson, JT Miller, Andrei Kuzmenko, Ilya Mikheyev, Anthony Beauvillier, and Brock Boeser.
Even if one or both of Beauvillier and Boeser are traded, as is expected, there are still a metric ton of forwards in the mix for those opened spots, and for the bottom-six, as well.
We’ve got Conor Garland, Vasily Podkolzin, Dakota Joshua, Nils Åman, Vitali Kravtsov, Jack Studnicka, Sheldon Dries, Phil di Giuseppe, Aidan McDonough, Nils Höglander, Aatu Räty, and Linus Karlsson already reasonable competing for spots, plus some longer-shots like Max Sasson and Arshdeep Bains.
Even if two of them move into the top-six, that’s still a lot of people competing for six spots.
But something that will help determine the eventual shape of that bottom-six is waiver eligibility.
A Brief Explainer of Waiver Eligibility
Waivers are essentially a process put in place to ensure that teams aren’t able to “hoard” talented players in the minors when other teams would gladly give those individuals a big league job.
In short, a player remains exempt from waivers for a certain period after signing their first NHL contract. There’s a dual-threshold of “years elapsed past signing” and “NHL games played,” and as soon as either of those thresholds is crossed, a player loses their waiver exemption.
At that point, a player cannot be sent down to the minors without passing through waivers, at which point any other team can claim them (unless they’ve already passed through waivers in the last 30 days).
Now, determining waiver eligibility used to be a fairly simple process that followed this handy chart:
AgeYears from Signing NHL ContractNHL Games Played
185160
194160
203160
21380
22370
23360
24260
25+10
(For skaters, anyway, goalies use a different chart.)
The rule is that when a player signs an ELC at the age in the leftmost column, and then goes on to hit either of the milestones in the columns to the right (whichever comes first), they lose waiver exemption and must pass through waivers to be demoted.
There are some additional wrinkles to the rule, involving 18- and 19-year-olds being able to reduce their “years of exemption” by playing in 11 or more games as a teenager. But other than that, the chart used to make this stuff pretty easy to figure out.
Like most things in this world, however, waivers became more complicated as of the COVID-19 pandemic. That resulted in some shortened seasons, and thus in some pro-rated waiver thresholds for players affected by those shortenings. In other words, for many players, the thresholds have been reduced.
Rather than copy out a chart for each and every iteration of that, let’s go through some of the key Canucks that are approaching the end of their waiver exemptions, and talk about how that might affect their chances of cracking the roster next season.
*’Years elapsed since’ are as of July, 2023.
Andrei Kuzmenko
Age at SigningYears Required Years Elapsed SinceNHL Games RequiredNHL Games Since
261100
Despite turning 27 in February, Kuzmenko remains waiver exempt…until the season officially switches over to 2023/24 in July. At his age, all Kuzmenko needed to do to lose his exemption was wait for an entire year to pass. As of next season, he’ll need to clear waivers to be sent down. Not that the Canucks have any plans of doing so.
 
Vasily Podkolzin
Age at SigningYears Required Years Elapsed SinceNHL Games RequiredNHL Games Since
2032160118
At this point, Podkolzin is probably considered a full-time NHLer, but he still retains waiver exemption for the time being. He’ll lose it at the end of next season or when he’s played another 42 NHL games, whichever comes first. Still, it might be comforting for the Canucks to know that, if need be, they can stash Podkolzin in Abbotsford for more development in 2023/24 without much risk.
 
Nils Höglander
Age at SigningYears Required Years Elapsed SinceNHL Games RequiredNHL Games Since
2033143141
Here we get to someone for which waiver eligibility should determine their place on the roster next season. In a way, it already has. Höglander was clearly worthy of a call-up at some point this past season, but stayed down in Abbotsford because he was just two NHL games away from losing his exemption. Had he played those two games, Höglander would have needed waivers to rejoin Abbotsford for the playoffs, and that would not have been ideal.
After this season, however, Höglander hits the seasonal threshold, and will thus automatically require waivers to be demoted. In other words, he’s almost certainly making the team out of training camp next year, so there’s one of those roster spots already functionally claimed.
 
Nils Åman
Age at SigningYears Required Years Elapsed SinceNHL Games RequiredNHL Games Since
22317068
This Nils is older than the other one and played more in the NHL this year, and yet Åman has a bit longer to go until he loses his waiver exemption because he signed at a later date. As soon as he plays two more NHL games, Åman loses that exemption, and also does so automatically when 2023/24 concludes. He could be sent down early on next season to increase roster flexibility, but he’ll play those two extra games eventually.
 
Jack Rathbone
Age at SigningYears Required Years Elapsed SinceNHL Games RequiredNHL Games Since
203314328
Rathbone has yet to really crack the Canucks’ roster, but he’s all out of waiver exemption. Because three years have elapsed since he signed as a 20-year-old, Rathbone will now need waivers to be assigned to Abbotsford before, during, or after Training Camp 2023. Theoretically, this increases his odds of making the team next year, especially over other defenders who don’t need to pass through waivers.
Still, if he hasn’t earned a spot by that point, maybe the Canucks won’t mind waiving him.
 
Akito Hirose
Age at SigningYears Required Years Elapsed SinceNHL Games RequiredNHL Games Since
2331607
Hirose signed at an older age than the average prospect, but it doesn’t impact his waiver eligibility all that much. By the years, he won’t be waiver eligible until 2025/26, but it’s far more likely that he hits the 60 game threshold first, possibly as early as next season. For now, this gives the Canucks free rein to stash Hirose in Abbotsford for additional development.
 
Cole McWard
Age at SigningYears Required Years Elapsed SinceNHL Games RequiredNHL Games Since
2131805
Despite being two years younger, McWard is in essentially the exact same boat as Hirose. The only difference being that McWard has a higher NHL games threshold to clear, and is far less likely to clear it in the coming seasons. He might have to wait until 2025/26 for waivers.
 
Linus Karlsson
Age at SigningYears Required Years Elapsed SinceNHL Games RequiredNHL Games Since
2331600
Karlsson is also an older prospect, but one who still retains a lot of waiver exemption. If he doesn’t get a bunch of NHL games in soon, he won’t be hitting waivers until 2025/26, either. This could reduce Karlsson’s chances of making the team over someone who does require waivers, but that’s a minor hurdle to clear, at best. If he wins a spot fair and square, someone else can always be waived.
 
Aatu Räty
Age at SigningYears Required Years Elapsed SinceNHL Games RequiredNHL Games Since
194216015
Like many top-notch prospects, Räty signed pretty early, and that gives him a lot of runway before he becomes waiver eligible. It’s either two more seasons or 145 more NHL games, which is almost two full seasons’ worth, anyway. Even if he makes the team full-time in Training Camp and keeps his spot from there on out, Räty will be freely demotable until the year 2025.
 
Jett Woo
Age at SigningYears Required Years Elapsed SinceNHL Games RequiredNHL Games Since
19441470
Woo feels like he’s been in the system for forever, and indeed, he’s finally at the point where he’s lost his waiver exemption, despite zero NHL games played. It’s been four years since Woo signed his ELC, and that’s all it takes. Woo did have a strong year in Abbotsford in 2022/23, but probably not strong enough to crack the Canucks or any other NHL roster in 2023/24. Waiving him is the expected result of Training Camp 2023, and him passing through unclaimed is the expected outcome.
Still, if he shows well at any point, the waiver eligibility greatly increases his chances of sticking around thereafter.
 
Filip Johansson
Age at SigningYears Required Years Elapsed SinceNHL Games RequiredNHL Games Since
2231700
Johansson is expected to cross over to North America full-time next season, and he’ll be given a fair shot to make the big team, but the chances are high that he at least starts in Abbotsford. Fortunately, even though it’s been a while since he was drafted, Johansson only signed an ELC next year, so he’s got two years and/or 70 games worth of exemption left. That’s plenty to get him up to speed in the AHL.
 
Arturs Silovs
Age at SigningYears Required Years Elapsed SinceNHL Games RequiredNHL Games Since
1864805
As we said, goalie exemption is weird and generally takes longer than skater exemption to wear off. That gives the Canucks plenty of time to let Silovs cook in the minors if they want…up to two more years’ worth, in fact. By then, Silovs should be ready for NHL duty or out of the picture.

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