How Long Do NHL Players Stay on Waivers?

Players in the NHL will stay on waivers for 24 hours. If they are claimed by a team within that time period, they will join that team. If they go unclaimed, their original team has the right to assign them to the team’s AHL minor league affiliate.

Waivers have been a part of the NHL and many other major American sports for decades. Players are often called up and down from the minors, and waivers are an important part of the process. But how long does a player need to remain on waivers before they learn their fate?

Read on to learn more about how long players can stay on waivers, when players can be waived, why players are put on waivers in the first place, and more.

Key Takeaways

  • Players will stay on waivers in the NHL for 24 hours. Within that time, other teams can claim the player and bring them onto their team. If the player goes unclaimed, their original team can send them down to the minors if they so choose.
  • Waivers in the NHL and other sports leagues are in place to ensure a good team can’t stash a ton of high-level players on their minor league team, and help struggling teams be able to improve.
  • Players are often waived due to poor performance or to make room for another player in the NHL, and they can be put on waivers at any time during the season, as well as for a short period before the season.

What Are Waivers in the NHL?

Before we look closer at the ins and outs of waivers, I felt it was a good idea to introduce the concept in general. If an NHL team wants to send someone on their team to the minors, the player needs to pass through waivers before they can be sent down.

Waivers are a procedure where a player and his contact are made available to all other teams for a period before that player can be sent down. If no team claims the player, the player can then be designated to the minor league AHL team associated with the NHL team.

However, if a team decides to claim the player, he will not be sent to the minors, and will instead join the NHL team that claimed him. This procedure stops teams from hoarding a ton of talented players in their minor league system, by giving other teams a chance to claim them.

It also helps players who may not be good enough to play with one team to get the opportunity to join another where they could have a bigger role. Overall, it is good for balance in the league and to ensure each team has an opportunity to improve.

If multiple teams try to claim a player, the player will end up going to the team that is worse, according to their placement in the standings.

Once a player is claimed by a team, they take over his contract and he becomes a member of that NHL team. If his new team wants to send him to the minors, he will once again need to go through the waiver process first.

How Long Are Players on Waivers for?

When a player is placed on waivers, they will remain there for 24 hours in order to give other teams a chance to claim them (48 hours if the player is added to the waivers on a weekend). The process for claiming players on waivers begins at noon Mountain Time each day.

If the player is claimed within those 24 hours, they go to their new team. If not, the original team is free to move the player down. Of course, they don’t have to send the player down to the minors, but now they have the option to do so without potentially losing them to another team.

Why Are Players Put on Waivers?

Players are normally put on waivers due to their performance. If a team isn’t happy with how a player has been playing, they may send them down and bring someone else up who they believe can help the team more.

Also, if a player is really performing well in the minors, a team may send someone down to bring that player up. So the player being waived might not necessarily be playing bad, but if there is an exciting prospect playing better, a player can be moved down to make room.

When Can Players Get Put on Waivers?

NHL players can be waived throughout the season, and a period before. Officially, waivers begin 12 days before the regular season starts, and go until the day following the end of a team’s season.

Some players are certainly waived through the season, but most of the waiving will take place before the season starts, as teams attempt to finalize their roster before the upcoming season to give themselves the best chance of finding success.


Here are a few common questions about waivers in the NHL, along with their answers.

Can all NHL players be waived?

No, some players will have a no movement clause built into their contract that ensures they are not moved down to the minors. Also, players who don’t have a lot of professional experience can be moved up and down without having to be placed on waivers.

The exact amount of experience needed to be waiver eligible is based on a complicated formula that takes into account age, games played, when they signed a contract, and more.

Is going on waivers good or bad for a player?

It depends. In many cases, getting put on waivers is bad for players as it means their team wants to send them to the minors. However, going to waivers can also provide a chance at more playing time and a bigger role for players if they are claimed by another team.

Final Thoughts

Waivers are a complex, yet important, part of maintaining balance and a fair league. I hope this guide has helped you not only learn how long players stay on waivers, but also learn more about waivers in general and how they work.

Do you think the NHL waiver rules and procedure make sense? Or is there something about the process you would like to see get changed? Let me know in a comment below.

About Kale
Being from Canada, hockey is essentially a way of life. I instantly fell in love with the game since I was being put on skates. From playing as a child (and the occasional street hockey game with friends today) to being a fan for over 20 years, I’m here to share my knowledge and passion for hockey. Email:

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