Why Boston Bruins forward Frank Vatrano is not waivers exempt

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 6: Craig Anderson
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 6: Craig Anderson /

The Boston Bruins forward didn’t wow many people during the preseason.  However, does he earn a roster spot simply because of his waivers situation?

The Boston Bruins young prospects all brought their game with them to training camp this season.  Rookies like Jake DeBrusk and Anders Bjork are being penciled in by many (this author included) to be top-6 forwards to start the season.  Other players who have been sent to Providence already made strong claims for roster spots, or mid-season call-ups.

One player that failed to live up to expectations was Frank Vatrano.  The 23 year old East Longmeadow, MA native played in 4 preseason games.  In those games he recorded no points, had a -1 rating, and accumulated 10 shots on goal.  In that time, while other players were making plays and fighting for a roster spot, Vatrano appeared to just blend in with the crowd.

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Given that fact, I had originally felt that even with his NHL experience, Vatrano hadn’t earned a spot in the opening day roster for this season.  Given his age and the fact he was still on his 3 year entry-level deal, I assumed sending him back to Providence was no big deal, and he’d be available if needed.  Unfortunately, I was incorrect.

According to CapFriendly, Vatrano is no longer “waivers exempt.”  “Waivers exempt” means that would not be exposed to the 30 other NHL teams if the Bruins sent him back to Providence.  After reviewing the very detailed FAQ that CapFriendly has on the Collective Bargaining Agreement’s waiver provisions, it turns out that at this point in his career, Vatrano is now waivers eligible.

Vatrano was 21 when he signed his ELC with the Bruins.  This means that typically after 3 seasons after playing in his first professional game, he would become waivers eligible.  But, even though Vatrano has only played portions of 2 seasons with Boston, he has exceeded 80 games of NHL experience (39 in 2015-2016, 44 in 2016-2017).  With his 83 games in the NHL, he is now waivers eligible.

So what does that mean?

If the Bruins were to decide to not keep Vatrano in Boston, he would have to pass through waivers before making it back to Providence.  Given the fact that many teams have been hit by the injury bug this preseason, there stands a decent chance that Vatrano could be scooped up by another team in need.  He does have speed and skill, which comes at a premium in today’s NHL, so there’s no guarantee he would make it through without being claimed.

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Given that the team could lose Vatrano for nothing if sent down to Providence, does that earn him a roster spot in Boston this season?  Looking long term, would it benefit him being the 13th or 14th forward and sitting in the press box, or would it be worth the risk getting him playing time in Providence.  What’s your take?