The Implications of Waiving Brian Rolston

So have you heard? The New Jersey Devils need to clear some payroll to get under the salary cap by October 6th. After officially signing Ilya Kovalchuk to a $100 million/15 year contract, the Devils still have work to do before the season. They are now concentrating on their cap situation. There's been a lot of talk around ILWT about eligible players to clear cap space. John wrote a good summary after Kovalchuk and the Devils signed and submitted their first contract in July. He used next year's cap situation for his reasoning. After the second contract was successfully approved, John posted about the current cap situation and some expectations going forward. It's been clear that Salvador and Zubrus are the top individuals to trade, and it may come at a cost of prospects and draft picks. Yet many fans are fond of seeing Rolston leave, even with his No Trade Clause. Tom weighed the decision of losing Zubrus or Rolston, which has churned up a big debate around these parts.

Dainius Zubrus and Bryce Salvador are good candidates because they don't have any clauses, as opposed to Brian Rolston who would have to waive his NTC (which like many have said has never happened in franchise history) to be moved. Well there is another way to remove a player with a movement clause, and that is through the waiver process. Some have mentioned, including myself, the possibility of placing Rolston on waivers. Well what exactly happens, and is this worth it?  I will show the implications if the Devils were to put Rolston on waivers, the separate outcomes from that, and their respected cap and roster situation. All after the jump.

First, let's get some through some of the trivial information. The Devils cap room is $-2,968,332 per CapGeek. They have 21 active players accounted towards the cap: 12 forwards, 7 defensemen, and 2 goaltenders.  Rolston's cap hit is $5,062,500 for the next two years, and his salary is $5,000,000 for the next two years. He signed a 35+ contract, which has some major implications pertaining to this post, and has a No Trade Clause for the duration of his contract.

Rolston is capable of being placed on waivers on Saturday, September 25th, which is the first day teams can do exactly that. He fully qualifies as a player who can. If the Devils submit a request before noon on Saturday, the waiver period will end Monday, September 27th. If the Devils submit a request after, it's not processed until Sunday at noon, and waiver period will expire on Tuesday. Any request submitted on a weekday has a 24 waiver period. This is all from Section 13.18 of the CBA.

The two outcomes I will concentrate on first is A) If Rolston get's claimed by another team during the waiver period, and B) If no team claims him and he is assigned to the minor league (Albany Devils).  I will then concentrate on if the Devils were to assign him back to the Devils using the re-entry waiver procedure, in which there are two outcomes: C) If Rolston get's claimed by another team during the waiver period, and D) If the re-entry waiver period expires, and Rolston is once again on the Devils.

Option A:  Rolston Enters Waivers and is Claimed by Another Team

Brian Rolston is eligible for waivers. He's played in enough games in his career and in the last two seasons that he's fully qualified. During the 48 hour or 24 hours waiver period (depending on when the Devils submit the request), any team in the NHL can claim him. There is a condition to this; the Devils have to approve or reject the request. Here's Section 13.13 (b) of the CBA:

A Player who is placed on Waivers by his Club may request permission from his Club to contact other Clubs during the applicable Waiver period to discuss the Club's level of potential interest in the Player's services. The Club may decline such request in its sole discretion. If such permission is granted, it must be evidenced in writing from the Club, with a copy via facsimile to Central Registry and the NHLPA, all in accordance with Exhibit 3 hereof.

If one NHL team claims Rolston with the approval of the Devils, then that new team would take Rolston, and his contract as is (also in Section 13 of the CBA). If two or more teams claim Rolston, there are conditions (points %) where a team is awarded Roslton. The main thing here is the new team takes Rolston's cap hit at $5,062,500 for the next two years, and his salary at $5,000,000. The Devils would have to pay some waiver fees and other expenses.

The Devils would be clear of Rolston's salary, his cap hit, and would be under the salary cap with $2,094,168 in cap space. They would have 20 roster players (11 forwards, 7 defensemen, and 2 goaltenders). That's plenty of room to acquire up to three more players at 3rd or 4th line center, and some depth players.

I really don't know any team that would want Rolston and his contract for the next two years. He's overpaid, has a No Trade Clause, and is a 35+ year old contract. Basically, no team would want Rolston for the same reasons Devils fans (who knows what the Devils organization feels) don't want him. This isn't going to happen unless a team desperately needs to reach the lower limit. Currently, there is only one team under the lower limit of $43.4 million, the Colorado Avalanche by $113k.

Not only that, but what team would willingly help the Devils taking a high paid contract off their hands? "Here you go New Jersey, we see you're above the salary cap. so we'll take Rolston's contract from you." This is the perfect world scenario, and it's unlikely it will happen.

Option B:  Rolston's Waiver Period Expires; Assigned to AHL

If no team claims Rolston during the waiver period, then the Devils can do a number of things. They can release him and buyout his contract. That's just dumb because Rolston is under a 35+ year old contract, and his cap hit would not change. It's a waste of $5,062,500 for the next two years. The Devils would most likely send him to the AHL, the Albany Devils. Beacuse of his 35+ year old contract, the Devils sum of the salary cap will include; CBA Section 50.5 (d) (i) (B) (5):

All Player Salary and Bonuses earned in a League Year by a Player who is in the second or later year of a multi-year SPC which was signed when the Player was age 35 or older (as of June 30 prior to the League Year in which the SPC is to be effective), but which Player is not on the Club's Active Roster, Injured Reserve, Injured Non Roster or Non Roster, and regardless of whether, or where, the Player is playing, except to the extent the Player is playing under his SPC in the minor leagues, in which case only the Player Salary and Bonuses in excess of $100,000 shall count towards the calculation of Averaged Club Salary;

Brian Rolston would be playing in Albany, paying him his regular salary, with the cap hit of $4,962,500. That really doesn't help the Devils clear cap space. $100k is hardly anything for season with a salary cap upper limit of $59.4 million and a minimum contract of $500k. They would lose a player for $100k in cap space. Rolston is worth much more than 20% of a minimum contract. The Devils would be responsible financially for hotel, food, and other accommodations while Rolston is in Albany during the season, however long that may be. This could be the first step for the Devils process of putting Rolston through re-entry waivers, which leads me to the next option.

The next two options are when and if Option B is successful. Option B is a prerequisite of Options C and D. Once Rolston is on the Albany Devils, the Devils may assign him back to the NHL. This is the re-entry waivers procedure. The waiver period has somewhat the same parameters as regular waivers. Here are the two possible outcomes I will discuss.

Option C: Rolston Enters Re-entry Waivers and is Claimed by Another Team

During the re-entry waiver period, other NHL teams can claim him. I am aware of no differences, except for one, between the regular waiver process and the re-entry waiver process. The original team must approve talks between the player, in this case Rolston, and the new team wishing to claim him. The lengths of the period are no different as well. If more than one team claims him during the period, the same rules apply. The main difference is salary cap and cap hit obligation; per the CBA, Section 50.9 (g) (ii):

To the extent the Player does require Waivers to be Loaned to a minor league affiliate, he cannot be Loaned or recalled without first clearing regular Waivers, and then cannot be Recalled to the NHL parent Club during the same League Year without also clearing a new Re-Entry Waiver procedure, pursuant to which the Player can be claimed by another NHL Club for fifty (50) percent of the contract's remaining amounts to be paid, with the balance to
be paid by and charged to the waiving NHL Club (both amounts to be counted against each Club's Upper Limit, Actual Club Salary and Averaged Club Salary, and counted against the Players' Share);

If a team is awarded Rolston during the re-entry waiver period, the Devils and the new team are each responsible for half of Rolston's cap hit (or $2,531,250) and salary (or $2,500,000) for the next two years. The Devils would be paying Rolston half of his remaining contract to play on another team. This wouldn't solve the Devils cap problem this season also. It would put the Devils cap space at $-437,082 with 20 roster players (11 forwards, 7 defensemen, and 2 goaltenders).

Are other NHL teams open to helping the Devils out (not to the severity they will be in Option A)? Is Rolston worth picking up for a $2.531m/2 year contract, with a NTC, and a 35+ contract? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe every team will pass and let the Devils work another way to clear space. Again, maybe a team will need to reach the lower limit and will claim Rolston. It's possible a young team may want a veteran presence, or a playoff contender wouldn't mind some playoff experience on the team. The bottom line here is the Devils won't really know until they actually do it. It's possible nothing will happen and they are back to square one. It is even worth the Devils time with much left to do with all these "outs"?

The positive implications of this outcome (or series of outcomes considering Option B must happen first) do depend on other circumstances, and on how you personally feel about worth. If the Devils are expecting to make multiple moves, then this keeps from trading a player away with leverage on the deal. The Devils won't be sacrificing prospects and daft picks in order to trade players away. This could save Dainius Zubrus or Bryce Salvador from even getting traded. Since Zubrus' and Salvadors' contracts are $3.4m for 3 more years and $2.9m for 2 more years respectively, is saving $2.531m for 2 years even worth it?   

Well it saves a little more than $2.5 million, but it's also costing a little more than $2.5 million for two years. It depends on which way you look at it. It's costing 50% to clear cap space and Brian Rolston's roster spot. It cost Jay Pandolfo 66% to clear cap space and his roster spot when he was released and bought out. Pandolfo is 35 years old whereas Rolston is 37. The cost/savings amounts are about 3x different. But does this sound like a better deal? This is the option realistically the Devils could seemingly want if they were to involve Rolston in the cap space freeing. That is, it's the best possible outcome using Brian Rolston in the equation to be relieved of cap space at no personnel cost (prospects and draft picks).

Option D: Rolston's Re-entry Period Expires; Assigned to NHL

This outcome would conclude that the entire process was a waste of time and money. Brian Rolston is back on the Devils, with the same cap hit and salary, and the Devils cap situation has never changed. The way I see this happening would be if the Devils tried to do Option C and no team felt Rolston at $2.531m/ 2 years was worth claiming him. The Devils would still be in a dire cap situation.


Conclusion

The different options presented each explained the Devils salary cap, the cap space, and it's probability. If the Devils were to go through the waiver process with Brian Rolston, it's clear they intend to put him through re-entry waivers, and get a team to claim him and 50% of his contract. The other two options do absolutely no help to the Devils cap situation, and the other is very unlikely.

Option C does save the Devils some money, but it does have it's risks and cost. Is this a viable option for the Devils? My guess would be if the Devils are having trouble getting any trades completed between now and say, three weeks, then this may be a good option. Maybe teams are asking for 1st and/or 2nd round picks and/or high end prospects like Alexander Urbom and/or Jacob Josefson, and the Devils feel uncomfortable doing this. It's possible the Devils are imposed a penalty by September 17th for the first Kovalchuk contract and the Devils must make 3 or more moves to clear space.  Per Tom Gulitti, if a penalty is issued, it will not count under the salary cap (Thanks to FrankG929). 

There's a lot of questions that can't be asked until it happens, or other action like a trade occurs. But what do you think? Do you think it's possible that Devils will put Rolston through re-waivers? Is this worth the risk and cost to save prospects and draft picks? Is it worth saving Zubrus or Salvador to a trade? Is Rolston worth more than $2.531m each for the next two years?

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