Today is waiver day around the NHL. It was the last day that teams could put players on waivers to be able to assign them to the minor leagues prior to submitting their opening night roster tomorrow afternoon. Among those players for the Tampa Bay Lightning is forward Tyler Johnson and defenseman Luke Schenn.
Spencer Martin, Daniel Walcott, and Luke Witkowski have been placed on waivers to be assigned to the Syracuse Crunch if they clear waivers. Andreas Borgman, Chris Gibson, Gemel Smith, and Ben Thomas have been placed on waivers and will be headed to the Taxi Squad if they clear waivers.
Additionally today, word leaked that the NHL had directed teams that they could not change their roster between their opening night roster and their first game. Typically when teams are placing players on LTIR, the team will manipulate the roster with players that either have passed through waivers or are waivers exempt to maximize the benefits of LTIR. Then after setting their rosters and placing players on LTIR, the team would then shuffle players back around to get to the roster they actually want in the NHL.
I'm told the #NHL has informed teams that when submitting Opening Night rosters by Tues. at 5pm ET, any changes made Wed. (for LTIR purposes) will count as if they were originally submitted on Tuesday. This is an interesting wrinkle for teams, because ... [1/X] ⬇️— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) January 11, 2021
For the Lightning, there wasn’t much room, nor the players, to really manipulate the numbers with. Of the players expected to be in the NHL for the season, only Cal Foote is waiver exempt. That meant that for them to manipulate the numbers with any other players, they’d have to pass through waivers first. When adding up the numbers, that meant that it was looking like the Lightning would be wasting about $333,000 in potential LTIR relief. Not a huge deal, but it is the difference between being able to add a player for injuries or not.
Luke Schenn was a player I had already identified as potentially being placed on waivers, especially if the Lightning wanted Cal Foote to play. He’d likely pass through without being claimed and could be put on the Taxi Squad so he’d be available to play in case of injuries. But Julien BriseBois found another little wrinkle; put Tyler Johnson on waivers (again).
Johnson already passed through waivers once this offseason without being claimed when the team was trying to find a landing place for him. It doesn’t feel like anything has changed across the league as we haven’t really seen too many major injuries that have left teams looking for a second line center or winger that also has the cap space to take on Johnson’s $5 million salary cap hit.
So there’s now one of two scenarios that can be played out. Johnson could be claimed on waivers and go to his new team. The Lightning then have some different numbers to play with, and would give themselves flexibility to add during the season if they find a trade that’s appealing. As it stands right now, the team won’t be able to add to the roster. However in this scenario, the Lightning could leave Marian Gaborik off of Long Term Injured Reserve for the opening night roster, then place him on LTIR, and give the team $3-$4 million in cap space to play with later in the season.
The other option is that he passes through waivers and the Lightning temporarily assign him to the Taxi Squad. Johnson would then only count for $3,925,000 against the salary cap instead of $5 million due to the limits on how much salary a team can bury in the minor leagues. This would then allow the Lightning to submit a roster of Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point, Steven Stamkos, Alex Killorn, Anthony Cirelli, Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow, Yanni Gourde, Mathieu Joseph, Pat Maroon, Mitchell Stephens, Alex Volkov, Gemel Smith, Victor Hedman, Erik Cernak, Ryan McDonagh, Jan Rutta, Mikhail Sergachev, Cal Foote, Ben Thomas, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Curtis McElhinney with Nikita Kucherov, Marian Gaborik, and Anders Nilsson on Long Term Injured Reserve.
This would effectively make the Lightning’s salary cap for the season $81,491,666 without counting Kucherov, Gaborik, and Nilsson. Compared to $81,166,666 if they submitted the same roster as above, except with Johnson and without Smith and Thomas. It’s not that much of a difference, but it would offer just a little bit more flexibility in who they can recall to the NHL roster throughout the season.
With the slight change to procedures that Frank Seravalli reported, that would mean though that Johnson and Schenn would not be able to play opening night. They would need to remain on the taxi squad until after the first game. The Lightning could then shuffle things back around and bring Johnson back on to the roster. Foote and Schenn will also be able to shuffle back and forth with each other on the Taxi Squad depending on who the coaching staff wants in the line up on any given night, though after a while, Schenn will require waivers again to be shuffled back to the Taxi Squad.
Shortly after the waiver news came out, Julien BriseBois confirmed with the media that the moves made were for cap management reasons and that Johnson and Schenn will be unavailable for opening night.
#tblightning GM Julien BriseBois said putting Johnson and Schenn on waivers is about cap management, need to be as close to $81.5 million by opening night before using LTIR. If they clear, they won’t be available opening night (on taxi squad) but can join roster afterwards.— Joe Smith (@JoeSmithTB) January 11, 2021