The NHL and NHLPA announced an official agreement with the IIHF on Friday, revealing that NHL players will compete at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
The announcement also unveiled the NHL will have a scheduling break from Feb. 9 to Feb. 26, at which time the AHL will be the top hockey league in North America. During this time frame it’s possible some younger NHL players, who are still exempt from waivers, could make AHL cameos.
For clarification purposes, this is how the waiver process works: if a NHL player is assigned to another team (AKA minor league affiliate), he must pass through waivers first. During this period any of the other 29 NHL teams can put in a waiver claim for that player. However, there are exempt players under rule 13.4 in the NHL rulebook who can be assigned to another team (the AHL) without the risk of another team making a claim.
For the Texas Stars, the NHL Olympic Break could mean the return of a couple Cedar Park Center favorites from the pre-lockout part of last season or a “stay-in-shape” stint for guys who unexpectedly made the NHL roster.
Perhaps two of the most intriguing names are Cody Eakin and Alex Chiason (if/when he makes the NHL roster). While it is unlikely that Dallas would want to send Eakin and Chiason to the AHL, Eakin will still have his waiver exemption until he plays 69 NHL games this season. The Olympic Break for the Dallas Stars comes after game No. 58.
Chiasson’s waiver status is a bit trickier. The rookie will lose his waiver status after playing 53 NHL games. If he plays every game his waiver exemption will be gone before the Olympic Break. But, if he is a healthy scratch for five games (or injured), Dallas could send him to the AHL without waiver issues.
For other players that waiver status expires much quicker. Antoine Roussel’s exemption will expire after he plays 13 NHL games and Brendan Dillon’s exemption will expire after 20 NHL games. So barring an injury or an insane amount of healthy scratches, Dillon and Roussel would not be exempt by the time of the Olympic Break.
Brett Ritchie and Jamie Oleksiak — a pair of younger players hoping to make the NHL roster — are both exempt from waivers for entire 2013-14 season.
Kevin Connauton, Jordie Benn and Cristopher Nilstorp won’t be waiver exempt this season. Meaning that they could be claimed by another team if or when they’re assigned to the AHL, something to sweat about if Connauton isn’t on Dallas’ opening night roster.
What do you think? Would it be a good idea to send waiver exempt players to the AHL during the Olympic break?