How does waivers work in NHL

How Does Waivers Work In The NHL?

The team roster of every NHL team observes changes during the season. Most teams could trade or swap players at this time. That is why most teams start and end a season without the same roaster. One way in which this process is undergone is through the waivers.

So, how does waivers work in the NHL? Players placed on waivers in the league usually move to the minor NHL leagues. That move can help them get a team ready to claim them in the league. 

There are many reasons teams place their players on waivers. In this article, we will discuss all you need to know about waivers in the NHL. 

What Is A Waiver In The NHL?

A waiver in the NHL is a rule that allows a team to move a player to a minor league level. That allows other teams to claim the players on waivers. 

For some reason, players on waivers have to reach a certain age, appearance, or years in the league.

What makes a player eligible to be put on waivers?

You can determine a player’s age by looking at his passport, asking him (if you’re a team official), or googling him (if you’re not a team official). Once you know the player’s age, consult the following chart:

Age and years of NHL service     Number of games
18-20, fewer than 3 years 10
18-20, 3+ years 40
21-22, fewer than 3 years 32
21-22, 3+ years 80
23 or older, fewer than 3 years 80
23 or older, 3+ years    320

All players, including goalies, must pass through waivers to be reassigned or sent to the minors.

This is done to prevent teams from stockpiling talent in the American Hockey League (AHL), as there are only so many roster spots available in the NHL. 

For example, if there were no waiver system, a team could send all of its extra skaters down to the minors and call them up whenever it needed them.

Waivers are also required for players ages 25 and older who have played fewer than 160 games. Additionally, goalies younger than 30 with fewer than 50 games played are exempt from waivers.

What Is The Waiver Wire?

The waiver wire is an online system that lists every player available to claim. The list is automatically updated daily in order of priority (the worst team in the standings being first up), and each team gets a chance to submit a claim. The claim then goes through three phases:

  • From 12 pm to 11 pm eastern time, each team can submit one claim for one player on the waiver wire. The team that submitted the first claim has until the end of this hour to make any changes or adjustments if they want to switch their claimed player for another listed on the wire. Once an hour has passed, claims are final and cannot be changed.
  • Each team is notified from 1-3 pm eastern time about which players were claimed and by which teams. As you can imagine, this process takes a lot longer than actually claiming players—it involves a phone call between every general manager in all the leagues several times—so each GM needs to have their ducks in a row before claiming begins at noon EST sharp!
  • At 3:01 pm EST, all successful claims are processed and finalized by the NHL’s central registry office; any unclaimed players remain on waivers until they’re either claimed or removed from waivers by their original teams (i.e., sent back down).

What Happens When A New Team Claims A Player On Waiver?

Once a player is claimed, the team that claims him is required to pay his full salary for the remainder of the season. That’s right. If you claim a player in December and make $6 million per year, you must pay him $6 million even if you only have him for two months. 

You may also trade him, but if you do so, then that burden falls on his new team.

You can waive players after signing them or claiming them from waivers, but there are some restrictions. 

Firstly, you cannot [send the player to the minors]. You can only release him or put him back on waivers (in which case another team can claim him). 

Secondly, teams cannot re-claim a player off of waivers twice in one season; such players are ineligible to be re-claimed until after January 1st of that season (or later if they were originally placed on waivers before November 1st).

What If No One Claims The Player?

Waivers matter because they show who has control over a player’s career at any given moment. The reason is simple: waivers determine who gets to call the shots for a player’s career.

When you’re put on waivers, if no one claims you, then your NHL team can essentially do whatever they want with you. They can assign you to the AHL, and they can have the player report to their practice facility and work out, or sit on their hands and let your contract run out.

But if a team claims you off of waivers? That team becomes the boss of your career. You will report to their AHL affiliate or NHL roster—if they so choose—regardless of what your NHL club would prefer for your future.

See Also; Can an NHL player refuse a trade? 

Can Multiple Teams Claim A Player On Waiver?

If multiple teams claim the same player on waivers, the team with the worst record gets him. How is the worst team determined? You can tell the worst teams in order of their win-loss record and then to the best non-playoff teams. 

Like in MLB, the team with the worst record gets the player when multiple teams claim him. If multiple teams have the same record, the closest team to his hometown will get him. If they’re also equidistant, whichever team placed their waiver claim first wins.

You might know already that when players go down to the minors, they are placed on waivers. But did you know that NHL players also have to clear waivers? When a player is put on waivers, any team can claim him. 

If he’s claimed, then his rights belong to the claiming team. If nobody claims him, he clears waivers, and his rights remain with the team that placed him on waivers.

If multiple teams within the same division claim a player on waivers, priority goes first to the last-place team in terms of points percentage (points earned divided by a total number of possible points) 

The general manager can use this information and trade offers from other teams to decide which situation they would rather be in when placing a player on waivers.

If multiple teams still want a player after all tiebreakers have been exhausted (for example, if two different junior hockey cities want their hometown heroes).

In this case, it comes down to which team wants them more—the claiming GMs negotiate a trade for that particular player over 24 hours or less with the original GM’s permission or without it if there’s no communication for two hours before noon ET deadline for transactions.

How Many Players Can A Team Send On Waivers In The NHL?

A team can recall up to four players from minors without subjecting them to waivers.

You may be wondering how your favourite team can keep sending its young players back and forth between the NHL and AHL without losing them to another team. This is where this waiver rule comes in.

After a player has been assigned to waivers, they’ll be available for any other team to claim within 24 hours. If no other team claims the player, they will be automatically reassigned to their original club’s minor league affiliate (with no penalty).

If you’re on waivers, your original club is still responsible for paying your full salary, even if another team picks you up before reassignment.

However, a loophole does exist that allows teams to send up to four of their players down from the NHL without subjecting them to waivers: you can move these players around as little as once every seven days!

Are Players Exempted From Waivers In The NHL?

Waiver-exempt players are exempt from the waiver process because of their age or experience. To qualify as a waiver-exempt player, you must be under 26 and have played in fewer than 160 games across multiple seasons or fewer than 80 games in a single season. 

So it’s pretty clear what this means: if you’re a young player with not a ton of NHL experience, teams can send you to the minors without worrying about another team claiming you off waivers.

What Makes A Player Waiver-Exempt?

Waiver-exempt players include those younger than 25 who have played fewer than 160 games (including regular season and playoffs), plus goalies younger than 30 who have appeared in fewer than 50 games.

The NHL waiver process deals with the rules and regulations regarding which players must clear NHL waivers before being sent down to the minors and what happens when another team claims a player. 

A player must have three years of professional experience in North America or be older than 19 before eligible for waivers. 

Waiver-exempt players include those younger than 25 who have played fewer than 160 games (including regular season and playoffs), plus goalies younger than 30 who have appeared in fewer than 50 games.

The waiver system plays an important role in ensuring competitive parity between the league’s member teams and preventing them from forming a monopoly on top-tier talent. 

It also allows teams to claim an unprotected player who would otherwise slip through the cracks, spending his career bouncing back and forth between the AHL or ECHL and a reserve contract with an NHL team.


Waivers are an important part of a hockey player’s career as they can discover a team that would like to have them. Teams can also use this to let go of some players with active contracts. Either way, this process ensures that all parties go home happy. 

So, if you were thinking, how do waivers work in the NHL? I believe you know now.

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