With some teams around the NHL already starting to make training camp cuts and place guys on waivers, it's worth noting that waiver eligibility can also play a role in how the Nashville Predators' Opening Night lineup will shape up. Once a player has reached a certain age and/or experience level, his NHL team can't send him to the minors without first making him available for 24 hours to any other NHL team via the waiver system. As the team narrows its choices down to the final few spots, they can run into a situation where they might prefer to keep a younger player at the NHL level for the present time, but would risk losing a veteran if they exposed him to waivers.
The following (thanks to Preds PR for the list) are players who can be sent down by the Preds without having to clear waivers:
- Taylor Beck
- Zach Budish
- Patrick Cehlin
- Filip Forsberg
- Brendan Leipsic (to junior hockey, not AHL)
- Joonas Rask
- Miikka Salomaki
- Josh Shalla
- Colton Sissons
- Mark Van Guilder
- Austin Watson
Defense & Goalies
- Taylor Aronson
- Victor Bartley
- Anthony Bitetto
- Mattias Ekholm
- Ryan Ellis
- Magnus Hellberg
- Joonas Jarvinen
- Seth Jones (to junior hockey, not AHL)
- Marek Mazanec
- Charles-Olivier Roussel
- Mikko Vainonen (to junior hockey, not AHL)
- Scott Valentine
By Opening Night, the team must pare its NHL roster down to 23 players or less. Depending on circumstances the team has run for weeks at a time with anywhere from 20 to 23 on the Active Roster, although I'd bet that early in the season they'd run closer to 23. Something like 14 forwards, 7 defense and 2 goaltenders is very typical.
...and that's where the numbers game can play a role. Just check out the list of guys who would require waivers on the current roster, grouped by position:
Forwards: Gabriel Bourque, Rich Clune, Matt Cullen, Mike Fisher, Paul Gaustad, Matt Hendricks, Patric Hornqvist, David Legwand, Eric Nystrom, Craig Smith, Nick Spaling, Viktor Stalberg & Colin Wilson (13).
Defense: Roman Josi, Kevin Klein, & Shea Weber. (3)
Goalies: Carter Hutton & Pekka Rinne (2).
Assuming the Predators go with Bartley, Ekholm, Ellis & Jones on defense, that leaves at most one forward spot available from among the younger guys listed above, before the team runs the risk of exposing another forward to waivers, or makes a trade to relieve the logjam.
These leads to two questions we can ponder as the first round of roster cuts is likely to come soon for Nashville:
- Whom would you pick as a single forward from the waiver-exempt list at the top to make the Opening Night roster?
- If a veteran has to be traded to make room for an additional young player, who goes?
More from On the Forecheck:
- Thursday's Dump & Chase: Prepare for Pekka's Pre-Season Premiere
- How Will Barry Trotz Handle Nashville's Bounty of Centers?
- Wednesday's Dump & Chase: Preds Hosting Public Skate Tonight
- What the Game of Hockey is Really All About: "All That Counts", Reviewed
- Tuesday's Dump & Chase: The Preseason Doesn't Matter! (When You Lose)