February 21, 2019

Devante Smith-Pelly and the NHL's Waiver Wire

Devante Smith-Pelly cleared waivers on Thursday. Within 30 minutes of that the Washington Capitals announced that they had acquired Carl Hagelin from Los Angeles to take Smith-Pelly's roster spot, and Smith-Pelly was demoted to the minor leagues.

Less than a year ago Smith-Pelly was a strong member of the Capitals 2018 Stanley Cup championship even if from a bottom six role. While he has never emerged as much of an offensive threat like he was in junior, he really impressed as a strong forechecking winger who crashed the net. It paid off, too, scoring seven post-season goals including goals in each of games 3, 4 and 5 in the Stanley Cup final vs. the Vegas Golden Knights.

Fast forward to today and Smith-Pelly isn't even in the league any more. But I'm betting not for long.

There must be a contender out there that would like to add the grizzled playoff veteran before the trade deadline on Monday. Or maybe the Capitals make another move, or god forbid suffer an injury elsewhere in their roster, and he returns to the Caps. He is only a $1 million salary cap hit, and is unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Admittedly he hasn't had a great year, but it t seems like such a low risk add-on that I don't know why teams weren't lining up to nab him via the waiver wire.

In fact, it seems unless there are goaltending injury emergencies, the waiver wire acquisition is quite an underutilized route to acquiring talent. And I don't understand why. Sure, every team has different circumstances and not every team can add to their rosters on sudden notice, but surely one of the contenders would want a little playoff depth?

And I suspect they still will, in Devante Smith-Pelly's case. Someone will give away a token late round draft pick for him and keep him on the farm until the playoffs or until a roster spot opens up, which ever comes first.

Smith-Pelly's career at the NHL level might be nearing an end, but we will still hear from him this season, I predict.

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