Vancouver Canucks need to make full use of the waivers this preseason

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 5: Jake Virtanen
TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 5: Jake Virtanen /

Preseason for the Vancouver Canucks is going to force them to make tough personnel decisions.

The Vancouver Canucks have space for only a dozen forwards, half a dozen defenders, two netminders, and three other players on the opening night roster. Even if the two players on Professional Try Out contracts don’t end up signing with the Canucks, there is no room for all of Jake Virtanen, Nikolay Goldobin, Anton Rodin and Brock Boeser.

What does that mean? Someone is going down to Utica.

Unless a trade involving the exit of an NHL player happens, that is. Ideally, Jim Benning and Trevor Linden make that happen and ship a regressing veteran out to make a spot up front for these younger forwards.

But that is unlikely at this point in the season. Someone is bound to get cut from the main camp despite coming so close to making the team and that player will probably be a young asset who will be a leader with the Utica Comets.

Before going to Utica, however, all of these players who are demoted to the AHL have to go through the waivers. What does that mean for the Vancouver Canucks?

Vancouver’s History with the Waivers

When a player is put on waivers, he is exposed freely to all the other NHL teams. All 30 other clubs will have the option to acquire that player, priority given to the teams with the worst performance thus far in the season, similar to how the entry draft seeding works.

They can pick the player up from the waivers to include him in their 23-contract NHL roster. That is what happened for the Canucks last preseason when they took the risk with forward Emerson Etem. He was picked up by his former, former team, the Anaheim Ducks.

The same thing happened way back when Frank Corrado was still relevant. When the Canucks lost him to the Toronto Maple Leafs, fans went nuts for losing a promising blueliner for nothing.

Vancouver did benefit from the waivers also. They picked up two players from the waivers last season. Though Joseph Cramarrossa did not stay in Vancouver after the last season ended, Reid Boucher stuck around and is in China for the preseason games there as this is being written.

Vancouver’s Waiver-Exempt Players

The Canucks do have many fringe-NHL players who are exempt from the waivers. The waiver eligibility rule sets guidelines for how many games a player needs to play before becoming waiver eligible and how many years of experience he has to have after signing his first contract.

As a result of those guidelines, here are how things stand with the fringe-NHL players the Canucks have at this point.

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The status of each of the more notable names on this list will be discussed on a later post.

Not including the 15 skaters mentioned here, the Canucks have six blueliners (#23, #51, #27, #8, #15, #44) and eleven forwards. That makes 17 skaters, excluding the PTO duo. Thanks to Brendan Gaunce’s inability to begin the season, there is a little bit of a wiggle room up front.

Still, that means that there are four roster spots remaining for these players, which means 10 are getting sent down until Gaunce becomes healthy, with at least one being a defender, likely Wiercioch.

One last factor to consider is that you don’t want a player like Virtanen or Goldobin sitting as a healthy scratch.

Enough spitballing. There’s much more to consider.

Finishing 29th Overall: Waiver Priorities

The Canucks had a dismal season last year, finishing second-last only above the Colorado Avalanche. This, however, will work in great favour for the Canucks.

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In the first ten games of the new season, the Canucks have the second-best waiver priority. That means that any player that the Avalanche passes on is right away available to the Canucks.

And after the Avalanche select one player from the waivers, the Canucks will have the top priority from there one. The CBA isn’t so clear as to how the Vegas Golden Knights figure into the waiver priorities, so that may make the Canucks the third-best waiver priority.

In short, the Canucks will have the ability to acquire at least one of the top three players that they want from the waivers before anyone else does.

That does mean that the Canucks will have to move someone else down to the Comets, however. If Vancouver can do a musical chair of waiver-exempt players and manage to secure a top prospect off of the waivers, that could be worth the trouble keeping a guy like Virtanen in the minors for five games or so.

Next: Brock Boeser will play in the NHL

I believe that the Canucks should make full use of last year’s legacy to pick someone up from the waiver by exploiting their waiver priority. If that means sending Anton Rodin down to the AHL after a disappointing preseason, so be it.