Breaking down the taxi squad ahead of the 2021 NHL season

No, this has nothing to do with a certain Ottawa Uber incident. This is a pandemic-related roster construction change.

The return of the NHL is nearly upon us. With the recent announcement of the shortened season comes the logistics of how a season in the midst of a pandemic will work. One of the key factors, in addition to a newly realigned league, is the addition of the “taxi squad.”

It’s understandable if you’re unsure what this new taxi squad entails, considering the amount of information the NHL released in such a short period of time. Essentially, it’s meant to be a pandemic-friendly way for call-ups, to ensure each team will have the players needed for the entire season should someone become injured or be out due to illness. However, the logistics of the so-called taxi squad are more complicated—which is why I’m here to break it down for you.

The website CapFriendly has the easiest-to-understand breakdown of what the taxi squad means:

As stated in the Tweet above, the taxi squad will comprise four to six players. Those players on the squad who require waivers will still be held to those same rules, and recalls must happen before 5 p.m. The new rules also require that a goalie be part of the squad if a third goalie is not already part of the regular season roster.

Here’s where things get interesting: because the taxi squads will likely be made up of AHL players, they will be treated as such for the entirety of their stay on the squad. This means they can practice with the team, join team activities, and travel, but aren’t allowed to participate in AHL activities. This also means there will be no cap hit for players on the squad—it will be treated like buried cap space, as if they were playing in the minors, as stated in the tweet above—and if a player is injured, they will be treated as if it occurred while playing in the minors. As for compensation, two-way players will receive “minors” salary, while one-way players will receive the standard NHL salary rate, again according to CapFriendly.

Assuming teams use the taxi squad to keep their most promising AHL talents nearby in case they need to be called upon, this deal works quite well. However, it does appear to mean that these players could potentially miss out on an entire season of play just to be a potential call-up guy. There are also few protections for these players on the squad, considering they’ll be treated as if they never left the minors. The benefits heavily favor the NHL clubs rather than the players themselves.

On the other hand, if a team decides to utilize the gray area in cap space to maximize their talents and alleviate salary cap concerns, things could get tricky. Remember, in order to be moved to the taxi squad a player must first clear waivers—and for teams with a multitude of highly-sought-after players, you could potentially be playing a dangerous game of “please let him clear waivers.”

So what could the Nashville Predators taxi squad look like? Eric (aka @OnTheFutureOTF on Twitter) shared his thoughts Sunday:

His best guesstimate at the players to fill the six slots open are Connor Ingram, Michael McCarron, Jérémy Davies, Rem Pitlick, Frédéric Allard, and Anthony Richard, with Tyler Lewington, Tanner Jeannot, and Mathieu Olivier as the wild cards.

What are your thoughts on the taxi squad and who do you think the six players the Predators choose will be? Let’s discuss it in the comments.