Brandon Pirri has only played 7 games with the Vegas Golden Knights this season, but has produced 6 goals and 9 points in that time frame. He was sent down to the AHL last Friday, only to be called up again on Monday. Many people are wondering why he is going back and forth so often this season when he’s playing so well. The answer lies within the Waiver process.
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What are Waivers?
When an NHL team signs a new player, they can either put that player immediately on their roster, or they can send them down to their affiliate AHL team (minor league team) to gain more experience. Teams use their AHL affiliates to groom players they think may be valuable to their team in the future, or to hold talented players they’ve acquired, but don’t have room for on their roster. In order to prevent teams from basically hoarding talented players for years on end, the NHL created a procedure called “Waivers”. Waivers are when an NHL team makes a players contract and rights available to the other NHL teams. Teams can then choose to “waive” any claim to those players, or pick up that player and add them to their roster.
When is a player “Placed On Waivers”?
Players are placed on waivers when they are sent down to, or called up from the AHL, or released from an NHL team. However there are 4 ways a player can be exempt from waivers:
- Player has recently been exposed to waivers
- Experience Exemption (age vs contract time)
- Emergency Recall– When a team’s roster doesn’t meet NHL active roster requirements due to injuries or suspensions, they can call up a player from the AHL without needing to clear waivers.
- Conditioning Assignments– When a player is sent down to the AHL for less than 14 days to get conditioning after an injury.
Because the first two are the most common, we’ll explain those further.
Player has recently been exposed to waivers
Once a player has cleared waivers (i.e. no other team claimed them), they do not have to be placed on waivers again that season until they have been on an NHL roster for 30 consecutive days, or played 10 or more games.
For example, Brandon Pirri cleared waivers after training camp this season when he was sent down to the AHL. So he can be sent down and subsequently called up again from the Chicago Wolves (VGK’s AHL affiliate) without needing to clear waivers until he has played 10 games with VGK or been on their roster for 30 days (whichever comes first). Right now, Brandon has played 7 games with the Knights. If he plays 3 more and then gets sent back down to the Wolves, he will have to clear waivers and will be at risk of being claimed by another team. Often times players have no problem clearing waivers, but Brandon is on a hot streak right now and would likely be claimed by another team looking to build their goal scorers.
There are three factors that determine a player’s eligibility for waivers: age, years played with an NHL contract, and # of games played.
Depending on the age a player signed his first NHL contract, he is exempt from waivers for a certain # of years or NHL games (regular and postseason). This is outlined below:
*If an 18 or 19 year old plays in 11 or more NHL games in a season, then the exemption period drops to 4 years for a goalie and 3 years for a skater, with the first year of that period being the year in which the player played 11 or more games.
For anyone age 20 or older, the year in which they play their first professional game is considered the first year of the number of years they are exempt from waivers.
Brandon Pirri is 27 years old and no longer qualifies for the experience exemption.
What happens if a player is claimed by another team?
If a team claims a player from waivers, they must absorb that player’s contract and compensate the team that they took the player from. The compensation rate is based on the player’s experience and position. The fees range from around $3,000 to $90,000.
If more than one team makes a claim on a player, priority is given to the team with the lowest possible points percentage. If the claim is made before November 1, waiver priority is based on the previous year’s standings. After November 1, it is based on the current year.
How can the Vegas Golden Knights protect Brandon Pirri from being placed on waivers?
The Knights have 2 choices if they want to ensure Brandon doesn’t go to waivers: keep him on the roster for the rest of the season, or send him down to the Wolves before he plays his 10th game (only 2 more after tonight).
If they choose to keep him on the roster, they must make room for him. There are only 23 spots on a roster. This includes 20 players per game (with the back up goalie), 3 healthy scratches, and any players on IR (these don’t count toward the 23). The Knights currently have a full roster and a few players that go in and out of IR. So in order to keep Pirri full time, they can either trade a player away without receiving one in return (they might do this for a draft pick), or they can send a current player down to the Wolves. If they choose the latter, they would be exposing that player to waivers, and risk losing them. Most people speculate that either Lindberg or Carpenter would be that player since they are frequently one of the healthy scratches.
No one knows exactly what McPhee plans on doing with Pirri. Personally, I like Pirri and would like to see what he can do on our team full time. I think he’s already more valuable than other players on the roster, but I also hate the thought of possibly losing any of our current players.
I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. But one thing’s for sure, if Pirri keeps his point streak up for the next two games, it’s going to be very hard for McPhee to justify sending him back down.