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With the playoffs approaching fast, you’re bound to hear a lot of talk about players getting called up or sent down the minors because of injuries or line-up tweaks. The Canucks are no different and regularly use their AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, for call-ups. If this type of news typically goes over your head, fret no longer; we’re here to give you the 4-1-1 on how the relationship between an NHL team and their AHL affiliate works.

There are basically two types of waivers. Waivers and Re-Entry Waivers. When teams want to send a player to their AHL affiliate, the player is subject to waivers. This means the other 29 teams in the league have a period of 24 hours to submit a claim on the player. If nobody submits a claim, then the player goes to the minors. If one team places a claim on the player and nobody else does, then they get the player. If two or more teams submits a claim, then priority is based on the current standings where the team that is ranked the lowest gets the player. In the previous two cases, the team that claims the player also takes on their contract in full. In cases where a player isn’t claimed, then he and his contract go to the minors and his salary cap hit is removed from his NHL team.Teams like the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers have done this with Sheldon Souray and Wade Redden respectively, letting their contracts stew in the minors, rather than having them count towards the salary cap.

If a team ever wants to call a player back up to the professional squad, then they’ll likely have to go through re-entry waivers. The process is the same as regular waivers except for one key factor: the team claiming the player is only responsible for half of the cap hit, while the waiving team is stuck with the other half. It’s why a good depth centreman like Steven Reinprecht, who the Canucks acquired in the deal that brought David Booth to Vancouver, is stuck in the AHL. His 2.050 cap hit is too much for any one team to stomach, but if Vancouver were to call him up and put him through re-entry waivers, he’d likely get picked up by another team as his cap hit would be split amongst them.

There are also one-way contracts and two-way contracts. These do not directly affect waivers, but it’s important to note that players on one-way contracts get paid the same amount whether or not they’re in the NHL. Players on two-way contracts however make a set amount in the NHL and a smaller amount in the AHL. This indirectly affects waiver decision making as teams are unlikely to want to waive a player on a one-way contract and have to pay him the same amount in the minors as he would be making in the pros. However in extreme cases like the aforementioned Souray and Redden, doing so benefits the team as it can get rid of a bad locker room presence (Souray) or clear up cap space to use on more valuable players (Redden).

But all this means nothing when playoffs roll around because rosters are expanded and waivers are nullified in the post-season. This allows for teams to call up players from the minors without worrying about losing them to other teams. It also gives organizations a chance to have younger players practice with the main squad.

Since the Chicago Wolves are currently in a playoff position, it is unlikely any of them will be called to Vancouver at the start of the playoffs other than Reinprecht. If they are eliminated early however, some prospects you might see practicing with the Canucks in the postseason include Jordan Schroeder, Eddie Lack, Yann Sauve and Kevin Connauton.

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Matthew Low 

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