Everyone Was Confused About Kevin Poulin’s Waiver Status

Kevin Schultz

It’s been a source of confusion and some debate for the last few days around the internet, but Kevin Poulin — according to Arthur Staple — does not need to go through waivers if the Islanders wish to send him down to Bridgeport after training camp.

poulinThis is sort of an important note because if Poulin did need to pass through waivers, it’s possible he could be claimed by another team if the Islanders tried to option him to Bridgeport, exactly like what happened when the team nabbed Thomas Hickey, Brian Strait and others off the waiver wire last season. So in theory, it would have been do or die for Poulin in an Islander uniform. But, since waivers aren’t needed, the Islanders goalie situation gains more flexibility, allowing them to sign/acquire another NHL veteran and option Poulin to Bridgeport. Or keep him in the NHL. Whatever floats their boat.

But a funny thing happened on the way to determining that Poulin doesn’t need to clear waivers; everyone got confused. Arthur Staple did, I did, dozens of tweeters and blog commenters did and, seemingly, so did the Islanders.

The CBA is a labrynth of a document and waivers are easily one of the most confusing parts. Depending on when a player signs their first pro contract, then when they play their first pro game, determine how many years the player is waiver exempt. Then, if they play a bunch of NHL games, they could lose their exemption sooner. And the games played threshold and amount of exempt years vary between whether the player is a goalie or skater.

If you flash way back to Garth Snow’s Q&A with the Islanders Booster Club, Joe Bondi tweeted out that Snow said Poulin would require waivers to head to Bridgeport (Joe reiterated that the other day). Yesterday, everyone kind of got thrown for a loop when Staple cited the team as saying Poulin needed waivers:

— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) July 8, 2013

So that got everyone researching. I spent a hour or so on it and every time I thought I figured out why he needed to clear waivers, there was another confusing rule or I was second guessing myself because, well, the team says he doesn’t need them. Who’s really going to argue with the NHL team?

Lots of folks did. There was intense debate at Hockey’s Future and Lighthouse, among other places. But in the end, Poulin has one more year of waiver exemption unless he plays in 49 NHL games, which he probably won’t. Welcome to the off-season, post-draft and post-free agency when we sit around and write about a player’s waiver status.

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Sidebar: If you’re curious about how to figure this sort of thing out, these are two great links. Plus there’s the waiver calculator at CapGeek. And that CBA thingy.

Specifically for Poulin, here’s how it works as best I can determine. He signed his first pro contract at age 20 on May 14, 2010 (and, technically, how the rules work is that if hypothetically he signed it before his April birthday that year he would still count as a 20-year old signee). So, since he signed at 20 and is a goalie, that gives him 4 years of exemption or 80 NHL games, whichever comes first. That’s based on this chart that is also in the CBA. If he hits that games played mark in the middle of the season, for example, he immediately requires waivers.

When this waiver exemption kicks in can float though, thanks to this caveat: “When a player 20 or older plays in his first professional game (i.e. NHL, AHL, or any other professional league game), the season in which that game is played counts as his first year of exemption.”

So, as a 20-year old signee, we now have to track down when he played his first pro game (AHL or NHL). That was the same year he signed, playing for Bridgeport in 2010-11, so nothing changes.

Finally, Poulin has used up three seasons of waiver exemption (2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13) and has only appeared in 23 NHL games (playoffs and regular season). So he’s got one year left of exemption or 57 more games. But it’s actually 49 games, according to CapGeek, because of an adjustment made in the CBA because of the lockout shortened season (exhibit 16, key issue #16 of the CBA).

Whew. I think we finally figured it out. Maybe. 

Update: Ok, and one more thing. Poulin recently signed a two-way contract. This has no impact on his waiver status. This simply means he gets a different pay rate (way, way less) if he plays in the AHL.