The 15 Most Successful Waiver Claims In NHL History
There’s several ways for an NHL General Manager to go about improving his team. Trading high draft picks and prospects might net a prominent top-six forward or top-four defenseman, but then you’re mortgaging your team’s future for a short-term fix. Sure, sometimes you can get the better of another GM in one-for-one trades, but those are few and far between these days. Signing free agents in the off-season is often viewed as a quick fix, but, depending on the market, you can vastly overpay for mid-tier talent.
The cheapest, most efficient way to improve your team mid-season however is by grabbing a player for free on the waiver wire. Sure, most players claimed ultimately do no more than become role players for their organization, but there has surprisingly been some extraordinary waiver pickups in the past 15 years. In the 2016-17 season alone there has been some quality claims. The Pittsburgh Penguins, for example, claimed goaltender Mike Condon from the Montreal Canadiens at the start of the season, played him until Matt Murray returned and flipped him to Ottawa for a fifth-round pick. In summary, the Pens added a free fifth-round pick. That’s smart business.
Sometimes all a player truly needs is a change of scenery, and that was especially true for the 15 players on this list.
- P.A. Parenteau
Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau signed a one-year contract with the New York Islanders on July 2nd, the second day of free agency. Yet, by the time training camp rolled around, the team appeared to sour on the 33-year-old veteran, placing him on waivers.
He was claimed by the New Jersey Devils as he fit in with their modus operandi of putting together a forward group with no plan whatsoever. Regardless, it has been quite the positive move for the Devils as Parenteau leads the team in goals with 12 in 44 games. He’s seventh on the team in total points with 19 points and clearly still has some game left. He’s on pace to score 20 goals for a second consecutive season after failing to do so in the previous four seasons. The Devils are a division rival of the Islanders, so this one has to sting.
- Sean Avery
Say what you will about Sean Avery the person (he’s a douchebag, a self-centered moron with no class, those types of things), but he was an effective NHLer for a number of years. He played out his final three seasons with the New York Rangers because of a comment made about players dating his ex-girlfriends. Prior to Avery’s Dallas Stars playing the Toronto Maple Leafs, Avery pondered why many players in the league enjoy his “sloppy seconds,” particularly Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf, who was dating Avery’s ex, Elisha Cuthbert.
He was suspended six games for the comments and was later claimed off re-entry waivers by the New York Rangers, the team who opted to not re-sign him and allow him to go to Dallas. In essence, the Rangers got 57 productive games out of Avery in 2007-08 before he signed a four-year, $15 million contract with the Stars. Because he was claimed on re-entry waivers, the Stars were still on the hook for half of his salary, meaning the Rangers got him at a discounted price. He wasn’t necessarily a star with the Rangers, but gave the team some grit and pissed off Marty Brodeur.
- David Schlemko
Sometimes it takes a player two or three teams to find his home and reach his full potential. That was the case with David Schlemko, who lived on the waiver wire in 2014-15 before becoming an established NHL defenseman. The Edmonton native and longtime Phoenix Coyote played just 20 games for the NHL team that year before being sent down to the AHL’s Portland Pirates, where he played two games. He was later claimed on waivers by the Dallas Stars, who gave him just five games before deciding he wasn’t part of their future.
Schlemko again found himself on waivers but was picked up by the Calgary Flames, who were looking for depth defensemen aid a potential playoff run. He ended up playing 19 regular season games and 11 playoff games with the team, earning himself a one-year deal with the New Jersey Devils, where he recorded a career-high 19 points. He signed with the San Jose Sharks this past off-season.
- Evgeni Nabokov
Given his status as an above average netminder with the San Jose Sharks for the first decade of the 2000s, it was strange to see Evgeni Nabokov on waivers in 2011. But it was a special circumstance. Nabokov left San Jose the year prior to play in the KHL, but signed with the Detroit Red Wings midway through the 2010-11 season. He signed a team-friendly $570,000 contract, but was forced to go through waivers because of a rule in the CBA preventing teams from loading up mid-season.
Nabokov was claimed by the lowly Islanders, who needed stability between the pipes. He didn’t report that season, allowing the team to suspend him and keep his rights for another season. That gave the Russian goalie a change of heart in 2011-12 as he reported and eventually played three seasons with the team, including six playoff games in 2012-13.
- Sergei Samsonov
Re-entry waivers no longer exist under the new CBA, which makes understanding waiver rules a hell of a lot more easy, but it was fun to see teams put aging veterans on re-entry waivers in hopes that a team might at least take on half of the player’s salary. Before they were a dominant force, the Chicago Blackhawks were hoping to get offense from players like Samsonov, whom they signed to a $3.5 million contract in 2007. He had just four assists through 23 games when they placed him on re-entry waivers.
The Hurricanes, needing a spark, picked him up and Samsonov took off, recording 32 points in 38 games. His play earned himself a three-year, $7.6 million contract. Samsonov racked up 69 points in the next three years.