Waiver Wire Pickups Most Likely to Have an Impact During the 2015-16 NHL Season
NHL teams faced some difficult decisions in getting down to the 23-man roster limit in time for opening night. The easy solution for teams is putting players on injured reserve and putting off the decision or sending down players who are waiver eligible.
Although most of the players sent down are fringe NHL players—who could be called up during the year—there are always a few gems who end up having substantial careers in their new NHL city.
Here are recent waiver pickups with the best chance to succeed with new teams during the 2015-16 season.
5. J.F. Berube, G, New York Islanders
Why Was He Available? The Los Angeles Kings are a championship-calibre team again in 2015-16. Their depth in goal includes Jonathan Quick—one of the most famous names in the game—and solid backup Jhonas Enroth. They didn't have room to protect J. F. Berube so took the risk with waivers.
Why Was He Taken? The New York Islanders have a solid goalie tandem in starter Jaroslav Halak and backup Thomas Greiss. The worry comes from the health of Halak, who didn't play much in preseason. An article by Arthur Staple in New York Newsday confirms the issue.
Will He Succeed? Berube is building a solid minor league resume and may emerge as an NHL option. It's a good guess that he'll be returned to Los Angeles as soon as Halak's health is established.
4. Chris Porter, LW, Minnesota Wild
Why Was He Available? The Philadelphia Flyers worked furiously to cobble together their roster in time for cut-down day. Defender Andrew MacDonald was the most famous name waived, but forward Chris Porter was the only Flyers player claimed.
Why Was He Taken? The Minnesota Wild are a legitimate contender this season and appear to have been looking for a depth winger to round out their roster. Porter is inexpensive and as the Canadian Press reported via NHL.com, he is friends with Wild star Zach Parise, who is also a former teammate.
Will He Succeed? Porter covers all the bases, he has some skill and grit and possesses enough experience as a role player to deliver. Minnesota had a need at the end of its roster and appears to have solved the issue with someone well known to Parise. That's potentially a solid move.
3. Kevin Poulin, G, Tampa Bay Lightning
Why Was He Available? The New York Islanders had their goaltending situation set heading into training camp. Jaroslav Halak as the starter, Thomas Greiss in a backup role and Kevin Poulin as a capable No. 3 playing down in the AHL. That requires waivers but most teams are in the same position, and this kind of player usually clears.
Why Was He Taken? The Tampa Bay Lightning got some bad news in early September, as their brilliant young goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy had surgery to remove a blood clot. The team's website gave more details and estimated his return as two to three months. That meant the Lightning needed to cast about for a new backup to Ben Bishop, and New York's Kevin Poulin was taken off waivers later in the month.
Will He Succeed? Poulin should be effective in the role, but there will come a time when he'll be back on the waiver wire. There's a good chance the Islanders will reclaim him, and Poulin will have enjoyed a few NHL pay cheques from the Lightning.
2. Paul Byron, LW, Montreal Canadiens
Why Was He Available? The Calgary Flames had a roster crunch due to their current three-goalie system. Losing Paul Byron was the lesser evil, although there's no doubt he was a player they were going to use this season.
Why Was He Taken? The Montreal Canadiens had an opening up front due to the situation confronting Zack Kassian. An accident and subsequent entry into the league's substance abuse and behavioural health program—as described by the Canadian Press via CBC—means Kassian will be unavailable to the Canadiens. Montreal was lucky Byron was on waivers, and he is a quality option to fill the position.
Will He Succeed? Byron has been filling a two-way role for the Flames over the last two seasons and is a good bet to flourish in Montreal. There's every chance he'll become a crowd favorite as he's a fast and effective checker. He is not a match for Kassian in terms of player type, so Montreal will need to look elsewhere for those assets.
1. Frank Carrado, D, Toronto Maple Leafs
Why Was He Available? The Vancouver Canucks made a series of curious moves—including playing Frank Corrado in the AHL and the NHL as a teenager—on the way to losing him on waivers at 22. They tried to sneak him through, but the Toronto Maple Leafs made a claim.
Why Was He Taken? Corrado has a nice range of skills, and it's not certain yet what kind of player he'll be or where he'll play on the depth chart. The Leafs clearly feel the potential is there for a substantial player.
Will He Succeed? He remains a mystery in some areas so there's no guarantee of success. It can be said this kind of move rarely happens, because NHL teams are rarely careless enough with this kind of potential. Vancouver fans should be upset with their management.