The NHL season is finally upon us and with that, comes a slew of waived players as rosters are finalized. The 2022–23 season kicking off means some tough decision need to be made. As an exercise, we built the best possible roster from the waiver wire using Evolving-Hockey.com’s goals above replacement (GAR) metric.
The NHL all-waiver lineup
Using a minimum of 50 minutes time on ice in 2021–22 as a filter, the best waived players in terms of GAR were identified. Forwards were inserted into the lineup using their traditional positions and defensive sides were ignored. A complete waiver list was acquired from Chris Johnston’s (@reporterchris) Twitter timeline. GAR was the only statistic used to compile this list, and no subjective factoring was applied to the players experience, potential or any other intangibles—it is purely best to worst.
The Calgary Flames waived the highest GAR forward overall by sending Radim Zohorna down to the AHL after just claiming him from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Every single forward is net-positive in terms of GAR, so that’s a sign that there’s plenty of good to replacement level talent that have been trimmed from rosters across the league.
The Detroit Red Wings also waived two high GAR players in Austin Czarnik and Matt Luff, and also waived Taro Hirose to round out the all-waiver fourth line. The Colorado Avalanche are the other team to waive two players on this roster in Anton Blidh and Martin Kaut.
The highest GAR defenceman was Michael Del Zotto, who was waived by the Florida Panthers. Six defencemen were net-positive, followed by two defenders were were just shy. Coincidentally, the Flames find themselves in this list as well, with Juso Valimaking clocking in as a seventh/eighth defender.
Alex Lyon was waived by the Florida Panthers as the only positive GAR goaltender. Lyon was the best goalie based on the metric but made up the top of a very weak pool posting only a 1.1 GAR (compare that to Flames backup Dan Vladar who posted a 7.1 GAR last year).
After claiming Valimaki, the Arizona Coyotes had another negative add in claiming Connor Ingram from the Nashville Predators.
Notes on the all-waiver lineup
Although it certainly isn’t an all-star lineup and most of the players that made this list won’t find an NHL home this season, there are some to note.
Michael Del Zotto outclasses the next closest defenceman by over 5.0 GAR. Radim Zohorna was by far the strongest left winger using GAR and former Flame Austin Czarnik was the top centre with a GAR of 5.0. The duo led their next positional competition by at least 3.0 GAR.
Florida had the highest number of players make the lineup with four—a forward, two defencemen, and a goalie.
Roster decisions are extremely tough this time of year. This is very evident for players like Flames Nicolas Meloche. Meloche had his NHL dreams come true before hearing that his dreams were immediately crushed. Hopefully he’ll see some time in the NHL.
At the end of the day hockey is a business and feelings need to be put aside. Few of these players will be claimed and a grueling AHL season will begin again. The Flames still seem to be looking to fill a winger spot headed into the beginning of the season and the Flames faithful are eagerly waiting to see what Brad Treliving and company will do to adjust the roster in the early part of the season.
Hopefully chemistry develops quicker in serious games for new additions on the top two lines. Hold onto your seats, Calgary, the 2022–23 season is here!