Building the best NHL team with all the players waived on Monday

Monday, January 11, 2021. A day the NHL won’t soon forget. If waivers moved water, then yesterday was a tsunami. Over a hundred players were waived as NHL teams sought to put in their final 23-man rosters to begin the 2020-21 campaign.

To see this many players on the waiver wire is completely unheard of. But the circumstances forced many teams to exercise these options, as there are taxi squads to fill, and salary caps to comply with.

A fun exercise to see how much skater value was seemingly thrown into the waiver wire is to build a roster out of the available skaters. To do so objectively, I sought to use Evolving-Wild’s Goals Above Replacement (GAR) metric to tabulate a viable roster.

Without further ado, let’s see how the players waived during Monday’s madness would look on a “best players available” team.

This is the waiver

To make the team, the top players in each position are simply slotted right into the lineup. Only their GAR from 2019-20 is looked at. A time on ice filter of at least 50 minutes played was also applied. All GAR data from Evolving-Hockey.com. The list of waived players was obtained from Sportsnet.

For the forwards, rather than placing centres onto the wing, I decided to look at each player’s natural position only, as listed on Evolving-Hockey. This means there may be extra centres with higher GARs that aren’t shown. This acts as a way to see whether depth in each position played a role in a player getting waived or not. Also, defencemen sidedness is ignored for this exercise too, so it purely shows the top six defence by GAR.

Forwards

Left Wing (Team): GARCentre (Team): GARRight Wing (Team): GAR
Rudolfs Balcers (OTT): 1.0Derek Ryan (CGY): 6.8Tomas Jurco (VGK): 1.1
Loui Eriksson (VAN): 0.9Travis Boyd (TOR): 6.1Corey Perry (MTL): 0.1
Mackenzie MacEachern (STL): 0.5Colin Blackwell (NYR): 5.8Logan Shaw (OTT): 0.1
Anton Blidh (BOS): 0.1Antti Suomela (SJS): 3.2Riley Barber (DET): -1.1

Defencemen

Defence (Team): GARDefence (Team): GAR
Aaron Ness (ARI): 3.7Anthony Bitetto (NYR): 2.7
Fredrik Claesson (SJS): 1.8Steven Kampfer (BOS): 1.6
Christian Jaros (OTT): 0.4Oliver Kylington (CGY): -0.1

Goalies

Goalie (Team): GAR
Alex Lyon (PHI): 0.2
Eric Comrie (WPG): -0.6

Going down the talent pipelines

All in all, a lot of these players are barely worth noting, and an overwhelming majority of them will go unclaimed. The biggest names of the day include the Flames’ Derek Ryan, the Maple Leafs’ Travis Boyd, and the Rangers’ Colin Blackwell. All centremen who were unfortunately waived while putting up solid GAR numbers.

On the defence, Aaron Ness had the highest GAR, waived by Arizona. Calgary waived Oliver Kylington too, likely hoping he doesn’t get claimed for nothing. Not much from the goaltender side of things came out of Monday’s waiver frenzy, with the Flyers’ Alex Lyon being the biggest name.

Obviously, a team consisting solely of waived players will not fare well at all. Still, the league-wide waiver washout led to some pretty reliable players being forced onto waivers. The regular season will be one for the ages, with the new divisions and copious games played against divisional opponents, the inclusion of taxi squads and all the technicalities there, and of course, playing hockey through a pandemic.

Whatever ensues in the 2020-21 season, we can only hope that things pan out as good as they can, with special considerations for the health and safety of those involved. However, expect chaos, expect nonsense, and expect nothing short of a season to remember. It’s already crazy and it’s not even Day One.


Image courtesy: The Canadian Press / Jeff McInstosh

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