Second Chance: Looking at five of the best pre-season waiver pickups since 2000

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No big names switched teams via waivers Tuesday, but history has shown that teams shouldn’t entirely ignore the wire ahead of the season. We take a look at some of the best pre-season waiver pickups over the past 20 years.

Paul Byron|David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Many fans were hoping to see Josh Ho-Sang, Daniel Sprong and Sven Baertschi claimed on waivers Tuesday. Instead, Carl Dahlstrom and Eric Comrie will be the ones switching organizations.

No doubt, the moves aren’t as exciting as some fans were expecting, given that it’s unlikely Dahlstrom (who goes from the Chicago Blackhawks to Winnipeg Jets) or Comrie (from Winnipeg to the Arizona Coyotes) will provide much impact for their new NHL squads. It’s not uncommon, though. Last season, seven players changed clubs before the first game of the season, and of those, only three – Remi Elie, Dmitrij Jaskin and Danick Martel – are still the property of the team that picked them. There’s typically a good reason a team would be willing to part with an inexpensive contract for free, and it’s not like the other 30 organizations haven’t done their homework.

But still, the pre-season waiver wire is an interesting one. It serves as a place to address depth concerns and patching up your bottom six is important, especially in the post-goon era. And we have seen some big names move via the waiver wire in recent years. Forward Chris Kunitz will go down as one of the best waiver pickups, regardless of when it happened, after the Anaheim Ducks stole him from the Atlanta Thrashers a few weeks into the 2005-06 regular season. Kunitz went on to win the Stanley Cup in 2006-07 and posted a 60-point season before winning three more championships with the Pittsburgh Penguins and an Olympic gold medal with Canada in 2014.

But we’re here to focus on the guys picked up prior to the season. Let’s take a look at some of the most pre-season notable waiver pickups since 2000:

Chris Osgood, G, New York Islanders – Sept. 28, 2001
With Dominik Hasek in the picture for the 2001-02 season, the Red Wings tried to move Osgood in a trade, but to no avail. Osgood was left unprotected for the old waiver draft that year and was picked up by the Islanders, a club looking to make the post-season for the first time in eight years. Osgood was one of the better goalies that season, winning 32 of his 66 games. He’d spend another half-season on Long Island before taking over starting duty with the St. Louis Blues, but it would come back full circle when he helped the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup again in 2007-08.

Chris Mason, G, Nashville Predators – Oct. 4, 2003
With teams looking to move on from expensive contracts, forwards Keith Tkachuk, Jaromir Jagr and Curtis Joseph were among the big names made available in 2003. None of them were selected in the waiver draft, however, with Mason instead becoming the big fish in hindsight. Mason, of course, had played for Nashville previously and never played for the Florida Panthers after the team acquired him earlier in the summer. Mason would serve as backup to Tomas Vokoun for a handful of years before assuming the starting role in 2006-07. He didn’t stay the No. 1 for long, but he was always reliable and is still a fan favorite to this day.

Michael Grabner, RW, New York Islanders – Oct. 5, 2010
In one of the more puzzling waiver moves in recent memory, the Florida made Grabner available in 2010 only a few months after acquiring him from the Vancouver Canucks. The move caught many off guard due to the fact he was coming off of three impressive seasons in the AHL and had 11 points in his first 20 NHL games. The move worked out perfectly for the Islanders, as Grabner clicked with star center John Tavares and finished with a career-high 34 goals and 52 points. He’s mainly used in a depth role these days, but the Islanders couldn’t have asked for much more out of the Austrian goal-scorer, who currently plies his trade with the Arizona Coyotes.

Paul Byron, LW, Montreal Canadiens – Oct. 6, 2015
Though his days on the top line are behind him, few players have had their career revitalized by waivers quite like Byron. During the first five years of his career in Buffalo and Calgary, Byron bounced between the NHL and AHL and hit the 20-point mark just once. A rash of injuries in his final year with the Flames pushed him down the lineup, and despite his hard-working nature, the Calgary elected to move on in favor of younger, more dynamic talent. Montreal scooped Byron up, and in four seasons with the Canadiens, Byron has scored 20 goals twice and finished with a career-high 43 points in 2016-17. He remains an important piece on the Habs roster and one of Montreal’s best acquisitions in a very long time. Better yet, it didn’t cost the team anything to acquire him.

Curtis McElhinney, G, Carolina Hurricanes – Oct. 2, 2018
In a race scenario in which one team lost two goalies via waivers in one day, McElhinney left the Toronto Maple Leafs to replace an injured Scott Darling in Carolina, while Calvin Pickard was claimed by the Philadelphia Flyers from the Leafs, as well. McElhinney recorded 20 wins for the first time in his career and was a solid option behind Petr Mrazek, helping the Hurricanes make the playoffs for the first time in a decade. McElhinney even had a five-game run in the playoffs, putting an end to the New York Islanders’ season in a relief effort after Mrazek went down with an injury. Not too shabby for a guy Toronto passed on in order to keep Garret Sparks, who is set to return to the AHL after being acquired by the Vegas Golden Knights this summer.

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