The National Hockey League is getting set to drop the puck on the 2019-20 regular season. Before the action officially gets underway on Wednesday night, teams around the league have to make some tough decisions in order to get their rosters set. This means the waiver wire will be a very interesting place for the next 48 hours and the fun has already started.
Islanders Waive a Pair of First Rounders
The New York Islanders made some big news on Monday morning by putting a trio of players on waivers. General manager Lou Lamoriello announced that he is placing defenseman Thomas Hickey and forwards Josh Ho-Sang and Tanner Fritz on waivers. Hickey and Ho-Sang are both former first-round draft picks who have failed to live up to high expectations with the Islanders.
Hickey was drafted fourth overall by the Los Angeles Kings at the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. He came to the Islanders after they claimed him on waivers in January of 2013. He went on to play in 449 games in an Islanders uniform, they 10th most in franchise history among defensemen.
Hickey’s possession numbers were great during the first three years in the league, but since the start of the 2015-16 season, he has averaged a 47.8 Corsi For percentage (CF%). Despite the dip in his numbers, the Islanders still signed Hickey to a four-year, $10 million contract prior to the 2018-19 season. He still has three years left on that deal, which might make it difficult to find a trade partner for his services.
The Winnipeg Jets are desperate for defenders after trading Jacob Trouba in the offseason and with Dustin Byfuglien taking some personal time as he ponders retirement. They could be the most logical landing spot for Hickey, but they may not want to take on the length of his current contract.
Ho-Sang being available on the waiver wire should raise the eyebrows of general managers across the league. Despite all the headlines he has made for the wrong reasons, there is no doubt that the talent is there and a change of scenery could be exactly what he needs.
After being drafted in the first round (28th overall) in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, he was sent back to the Niagara IceDogs of the Ontario Hockey League for being late to the first day of the 2015 training camp. When he finally made his NHL debut, he caused a bit of a stir for choosing to wear number 66 in homage to Mario Lemieux. There were those felt he shouldn’t wear that number, even though it is not retired by the league.
On the ice, Ho-Sang has been very good in the American Hockey League. He has 26 goals and 110 points in 156 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. However, that offensive talent has not translated to the top level as he has just seven goals and 24 points in 53 games with Islanders. It is his offensive talent that will spark interest from teams around the league.
Canucks Make a Tough Call
Hickey and Ho-Sang are not the only former first-round picks finding their names on the waiver wire today. Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet is reporting that the Vancouver Canucks are placing winger Sven Baertschi on waivers as well.
Baertschi, who turns 27 on Oct. 5, scored nine goals and 14 points, in 26 games, for the Canucks last season. He was originally drafted 13th overall by the Calgary Flames at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. After just eight goals and 28 points, in 66 games, for the Flames, he was traded to the Canucks for a second-round draft pick at the 2015 trade deadline.
He’s been a fairly effective player for the Canucks with a .48 points per game average (PPG) over his 285 games with the team. He is another player that should garner plenty of interest from the rest of the league. He is signed through the 2020-21 season with a $3.36 million salary-cap hit.
Plenty of NHL Experience Available for the Taking
Teams who are in need of a goaltender could be in luck today. Eric Comrie (Jets), Casey DeSmith (Pittsburg Penguins) and Anton Forsberg (Carolina Hurricanes) have all been placed on waivers. The trio has a combined 100 games of NHL experience under their collective belts.
Forsberg’s teammate, defenseman Gustav Forsling was also placed on waivers. Both of them were acquired by the Chicago Blackhawks for Calvin de Haan and Aleksi Saarela last June. If they clear, they will suit up for the Charlotte Checkers, the reigning Calder Cup champions.
Other defensemen who find themselves on the waiver wire today include Carl Dahlstrom (Blackhawks), Brandon Manning (Edmonton Oilers), Steven Santini (Nashville Predators) and Luke Schenn (Tampa Bay Lightning). Among the notable forwards who have to sweat out the next 24 hours are J.T. Brown (Minnesota Wild), Sam Carrick (Anaheim Ducks), Marko Dano (Columbus Blue Jackets), Sam Gagner (Oilers), Nikolay Goldobin (Canucks), Curtis Lazar (Buffalo Sabres) and Daniel Sprong (Ducks).