It is a particularly busy day on the NHL waiver wire, which features at least one NHL-caliber forward, defenceman and goaltender. Most teams still have a lot of bodies in training camp, but the names on today’s list have to be tempting.
- LW Kenneth Agostino. Probably most famous as part of Calgary’s return in the Jarome Iginla trade, Agostino scored at just under a point-per-game pace in the AHL last year. He’s smart, has average size and decent offensive instincts, and at the age of 24 may yet develop into a reasonable bottom-six NHL player. Last spring, Flames Nation gave him good marks for the progress he made in his second minor-league campaign.
- LD Mark Barberio. Competition is fierce for work on the Montreal blue line, and Barberio seems to have just missed the cut. He’s played 131 NHL games over the last three seasons, and while he only has average size he plays an intelligent game and is crafty with the puck. He had 20 points in 26 AHL games last year in what was his only minor-league stint of the last three seasons and earned very strong reviews (and a one-way, two-year contract) for his play over 30 games with the Canadiens last year. He’s only 26, and if he shot right I’d say there was very little chance of him clearing waivers.
- G Reto Berra. Berra has spent most of the last three seasons in the NHL, posting a 0.897 save percentage in 2013-14, but improving that number to 0.918 and 0.922 respectively in two following seasons with Colorado. The 6’4”, 29-year-old stopper is a more qualified goalie than several backups presently in the NHL.
- RW Mike Blunden. A somewhat late-blooming 6’4” winger, Blunden had one of the better seasons of his career last year at age 29. He scored 21 goals in just 49 AHL games, and earned 27 combined major-league appearances between the regular season and playoffs in Tampa Bay. He’s a physical presence capable of playing on a defensive zone unit, but he doesn’t have much history of scoring at the rate he managed last year.
- C Tyler Graovac. Graovac was a contender for a fourth-line job in Minnesota this season. To explain why, it’s worth going back to the fall of 2015, when the 6’5” Graovac was just 22, coming off a 46-point season in the AHL, and made the Wild out of training camp. Then he got hurt, his season went off the rails, and when he came back in the AHL he had just 16 points in 39 games. He’s still big and young, and (importantly) cheap as an end-of-roster option. One thing working against a claim is his two-year deal, which is a two-way contract this season but turns into a one-way deal in 2017-18.
- RW Nicklas Jensen. I had to remind myself that Jensen was a first-round pick in 2011 and not earlier because it sometimes feels like he’s been around forever. He’s big (6’3”) and fast, but his offence never quite developed as expected. He trended up after a trade to the Rangers system last year (15 goals, 25 points in 41 AHL games) and is indisputably a gifted shooter. At 23, he might be worth a claim but it would be based on potential, because he’s never been a terribly productive scorer.
- LD Jakub Kindl. Kindl has played 292 games in the NHL, including 34 last season. The former first-round pick is a multifaceted defenceman, combining a 6’3” frame with the ability to move the puck. He can certainly play a No. 5/6 role in the show but his salary does work against him: Even with Detroit retaining a portion of it his cap hit is just over $2.0 million.
- RD Mike Kostka. It’s worth mentioning Kostka, seeing as he’s a right-shot defenceman with decent size (6’1”, 210 pounds), offensive instincts (29 points in 50 AHL games last year) and 85 career NHL games. He is, however, now 30 years old and has not shown the ability to be more than a No. 7/8 defender at the NHL level. He’s a good recall option, but probably not an everyday roster player.
- G Mike Leighton. Leighton’s had a weird career. In 2009-10 he was picked off waivers by the Flyers and posted a 0.918 save percentage for them over 27 regular season games before improbably backstopping them to the Cup final. The next year he was in the minors, and in four seasons since at the AHL level has managed 0.926, 0.918, 0.920 and 0.918 save percentages, respectively. He spent a year in the KHL in between all that, posting a 0.933 save percentage for Donbass. If he wasn’t 35, he’d be an interesting player.
- LD Keegan Lowe. Kevin Lowe’s son is a physical defensive defenceman who plays a combative brand of hockey. He’s not overly big, and both his skating and offensive ability have been critiqued in the past. He’s only 23 years old, so there’s plenty of time left.
- RW Logan Shaw. Shaw was a revelation last season. The 6’3”, 202-pound winger blew the doors off his previous AHL work and earned his way into the majors, where he played 53 games for the Panthers. He just turned 24 today and brings energy and defensive ability (he killed penalties last year) but offensive potential is a major question mark.
- RD Matt Tennyson. A regular end-of-roster type for the San Jose Sharks the last few seasons, Tennyson marries a 6’2” frame to pretty decent offensive instincts. His NHL work over 60-odd games hasn’t been anything special, though, and like Kostka he’s the kind of player who has some standout attributes but doesn’t seem capable of holding down a major-league job full-time. The caveat here is that Tennyson is four years younger than Kostka, and defencemen have emerged in their late 20’s before.
James Mirtle as the full list, though most of the players are highlighted above:
Today on NHL waivers. Everyone cleared from yesterday: pic.twitter.com/Be4SJzYnaJ
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) October 5, 2016
Yesterday’s list was a step forward from previous iterations and the same is true of today’s group of players. There are some NHL-caliber players here, though the usual caveat applies: It’s more difficult for teams to put in a claim now (while in the midst of their own cuts) than it will be later in the season (when roles are clearly defined and injuries have taken their toll).
Still, there are some possibilities here. Graovac is big, young, and it can be hard to find centres on waivers at this time of year (since most teams like to keep at least one pivot as a spare forward). Berra stands out because he’s pretty clearly capable of playing a backup role in the NHL; San Jose (with all due respect to Aaron Dell) seems the logical destination but we’ll see. Shaw was a full-time NHL’er last year and has youth on his side.
My favourite, though perhaps not the most likely to be claimed (given the way positional issues play into this) is Barberio. He’s coming off what is a fantastic season in a lot of ways and his outstanding skills (brains, offensive ability) are exactly the kind of things that are being emphasized with greater frequency in the NHL today. If he were a righty, it would be a no-brainer to take him; even as a left-shot I think he has a chance.