Hockey 101: Waivers and 2-Way Contracts


It’s been a while since I put anything up on the Hockey 101 part of the page, but some recent events have given me inspiration to write up another post here. Today, one of my followers on Twitter asked me these two questions about waivers and two-way contracts. I think these two particular topics are perfect for a Hockey 101 post as they are linked in what is a pretty large misconception and I will hopefully set that misconception to rest today.

Two-Way Contracts

Two-Way contracts are actually fairly simple. A two-way contract is a contract with a player in which they are paid one amount if they are playing at the NHL level, but are paid another amount if they are playing at a minor league level. Observe below.

Two-Way contract

This is a screen capture of Joey Hishon’s current contract (from with the Colorado Avalanche which, as you see, has two different amounts in the NHL Salary and AHL Salary spots. So let’s compare this with a one-way contract.

One-Way contract


This is a screen capture of Matt Duchene’s new contract (from with the Colorado Avalanche. Notice that the AHL Salary and NHL Salary have the same number. This means that if, for some reason, Matt Duchene ended up playing in Lake Erie, he would still be making the same amount of money he would have been making playing at the NHL level. Obviously, Matt Duchene will not be playing in the AHL any time soon, but this still illustrates the difference.


Thanks largely in part to the EA Sports NHL games, many people have had the misconception that a two-way contract means the player does not have to clear waivers in order to be sent down to the minor-league team. This is not true, two-way contracts have only to do with money, not about whether or not a player must pass through waivers. The two are completely separate and have nothing to do with one another other than what a player will be payed when they finally get through waivers and are assigned to the minor league team.

When a player is placed on waivers, this means that the rest of the teams in the league have 24 hours to grab this player for no compensation. A team can just say, “I want that guy” and they will be in their system. It’s essentially a free-for-all, but it isn’t a first come, first served basis. If more than one team puts in a claim on a player, the player will be awarded to the team who has the lowest percentage of possible points in the NHL standings at the time of the request for waivers (from the NHL/NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement). So, based off of last year’s standings, the Boston Bruins could put in a claim on a player, but if any other team did one as well the Bruins would lose out.

Not all players, however, must be placed on waivers when being sent up and down. There are a lot of rules surrounding this, but they essentially boil down to the following:

  • 18 & 19 year old skaters are exempt from waivers for five & four seasons respectively unless they have played in 11 NHL games.
  • If an 18 or 19 year old skater has played in 11 NHL games, they are exempt from waivers for three seasons.
  • A 20 year old skater who has played 1 professional game (AHL, NHL whatever), is exempt from waivers for three seasons.
  • Once a player aged 18-20 plays a total of 160 NHL games, they immediately become eligible for waivers.
  • A Player 25 years old or older who plays in one or more Professional Games
    in any season shall be exempt from Regular Waivers for the remainder of that season.
  • 18 & 19 year old goalies are exempt from waivers for six and five years respectively unless they have played in 11 NHL games.
  • If an 18 or 19 year old goalie has played in 11 NHL games, they are exempt from waivers for four seasons.

All information taken directly from the NHL/NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement.

So, Stefan Elliott recently had to clear waivers, but is only 23 years old. The reason he had to clear waivers first is because he has played more than 11 NHL games and has gone through his three-year exemption from waivers.

If you have any suggestions for more Hockey 101 posts, please let me know either in comments below, at my twitter @BrgBrigadeKevin or on our Facebook page.

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