Those of you who don’t read OilersNation will have missed a bizarre dispute over Gilbert Brule’s waiver status for 2009-10. It all started as a result of Jason Gregor’s answer to a question from a reader about the waiver status of Oilers players next season. Gregor (a professional reporter) responded:
Gilbert Brule doesn’t have to clear waivers at the start of the year, but once he plays three NHL games then he would have to.
Rob Schremp, Devon Dubnyk and Liam Reddox don’t have to clear waivers. They have only played three pro years, and have yet to play 160 NHL games, plus they are under 25. I have no idea why anyone would think Reddox needs to clear waivers. If a player has played four years pro, then he has to clear waivers regardless of how many NHL games he has played, or if he is over 25 years of age when the season starts.
Chorney and Peckham don’t have to clear.
Bubble guys that need to clear are Pouliot, MacIntyre, Jacques, Potulny (although I don’t think he has a chance of making team) and Stone.
Frequent Oilogosphere commenter (and occasional blogger) speeds had actually just posted about this very topic at his own site and he responded as follows:
I’ve mentioned this before, but both Schremp and Brule need to clear waivers.
Brule because he played over 11 games as a 19 year old in 06/7, so his waiver exemption drops to 3 years and those 3 years are over.
Schremp signed at 19, and only gets 4 years from when he signs (not the number of pro years played). Those 4 years are over, he has to clear waivers this fall.
The rules are different for goalies, so Dubnyk has one more year without waivers.
Not sure on Reddox.
Gregor, who has previously chararacterized bloggers as “…nameless, faceless people who write their opinions” and complained “…there are too many false facts in blogs” came back with the following:
YOU ARE WRONG…it doesn’t matter when Schremp signs, it matters how many years he PLAYS…As for Brule wrong again. He doesn’t have to clear waivers. I have no idea why you think playing 19 games as a 19 year-old changes that. I’ve spoke with Rick Olczyk many times and neither are waiver eligible next year. Same as Reddox.
Just because you said it before that Brule is a free agent doesn’t make it right. Your info or interpretation is completely wrong. I know this 100% since I spoke with Rick this week.
After much discussion, and a lengthy digression from Gregor about some problems he had with attribution earlier this year, it seemed to be generally agreed that speeds was right: Gregor’s understanding of the rule was wrong. To his credit, Gregor went back to the Oilers and Brule’s management to try and find out what the answer was. He came up with the following:
For Brule he in fact cleared waivers once before, so because of that it is his GP that comes into play now.
Rick [Olczyk, the Oilers assistant GM] called me just as I was returning on air, so I couldn’t get into the other players, but when he returns from Vegas we will.
I never knew that Brule cleared waivers before, and we didn’t have time to get into the exact specifics, but that was the explanation Rick gave us. So He was correct the entire time which shouldn’t surprise anyone.
This was somewhat difficult to understand, given that the general understanding in Edmonton last year was that Brule wouldn’t have to clear waivers last year until he played in his 160th NHL game. The Oilers, who have historically been loathe to expose anyone with promise to waivers, waived Gilbert Brule when they didn’t have to? How does that make any sense?
It was widely assumed that the Oilers were playing with his service time, doing whatever they could to avoid having Brule hit the 160 game mark because they wanted to be able to send him back down to the minors in order to avoid having to expose him to waivers. Robin Brownlee even wrote a story about Brule on January in which Brule talked about his own awareness of the rules:
“It’s in the back of my mind,” Brule said of the waiver rules under the CBA. “I look at my games played and it’s part of the rules, but I’m just trying to go out there and play the best I can with the chances I’m given.”
Things got weirder. Gregor proceeded to get the following:
I did hear back from Brule’s representatives and they confirmed he had been waived.
They told me that according the to the NHLPA Brule played 12 games as an 18 year old, not the seven that is on nhl.com or hockeydb.com, which on the outside doesn’t seem to make much sense.
So with that being the case he was waiver eligible last season, so he had to clear waivers, it wasn’t a case of the Oilers just doing it.
On the outside looking in that doesn’t make much sense and the representatives agreed, but since he has already cleared waivers they have agreed that the 160 GP is the point when he will need to clear waivers again.
NHL.com has the game summary from that year, and it looks like he played the first two games, and then got into five from Nov 20 to Nov 30. I didn’t check the rest because I have to run to a meeting, but when I do I will see if there are any other games he was on the game sheet. Strange.
I now have a call into the NHLPA to see what they have to say. Interesting.
This makes even less sense. I checked and he played six preseason games, so I don’t think that it’s anything related to that – the CBA doesn’t include them, it makes no sense for them to be included and 7+6 does not equal 12. Perhaps more obviously, if Brule had played 12 games in 2005-06, a year should have been burned off of this entry level contract and he should have been a restricted free agent last summer, which he wasn’t.
I should add as well that I don’t think that Brule’s representatives are right that, assuming he’s cleared waivers, 160 games played is the point where he has to again clear waivers. My reading of the CBA is that the exemption that comes from having cleared waivers expires at the end of the season – a guy has to again clear waivers the following season. Thomas Pock illustrates this point – he cleared waivers after playing one game in 2007-08, spent the year in the AHL and was claimed by the Islanders at the start of the 2008-09 season when the Rangers again tried to send him to the minors.
Brule’s suffered some fairly serious injuries in 2005-06, spraining his sternum in the second game of the season, returning the lineup on November 20, 2005 and then breaking his leg on November 30, 2005. He does not appear on the roster for any games between November 30, 2005 and January 12, 2006. On January 12, 2006, he was returned to the Vancouver Giants of the WHL. He was dressing in games for Vancouver by January 20, 2006. Brule did not play twelve games in 2005-06, no matter what the NHLPA says.
If you take the explanation offered by the Oilers and Brule’s at face value, it means that Brule would have had to clear waivers when he went down to the minors at the start of the year, as a player who started his three year waiver clock in the 2005-06 season. Assuming he clears waivers at the start of the season, he can then be called up and sent down without having to clear waivers until he plays 10 games (cumulative) since regular waivers were last cleared or spends 30 days (cumulative) on an NHL roster.
He was recalled on December 5, 2008 and then assigned to Springfield on December 12, 2008. He was again recalled to Edmonton on December 31, 2008 and then re-assigned to Springfield on January 21, 2009. I don’t see the days on Edmonton’s roster as being a problem – I could thirty days, maximum – but by dressing him in 11 games, my reading of the waiver rules is that he would have had to pass waivers a second time before going down to Springfield on January 21, 2009. I would be surprised if the Oilers could have sent him down a second time without clearing waivers by holding him out of two games but that they elected not to do so.
Looking at this from a wider perspective, it should be noted that waivers are (generally speaking) to the benefit of the player. Before you have to go and make AHL money, every team in the NHL gets a crack at taking you. For the teams, they’re a negative – you have a player who is under your control that you’re required to expose to other teams in the NHL. I would be surprised if the Oilers were passing Brule through waivers on the basis that he played 12 games in the 2005-06 season when he obviously didn’t.
Having thought all of this through, I honestly don’t know what to think. I cannot see a single explanation for Brule having had to clear waivers last year. The other indicia that I would expect to see if this were true, (his entry level contract having expired and the Oilers limiting him to nine games last season), aren’t present. It is exceedingly difficult to understand the unanimity of the Oilers and (particularly) Brule’s agents on this point, given that the explanation makes absolutely no sense and there doesn’t seem to be a plausible reading of the CBA that supports any of this.