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Understanding the NHL Holiday Roster freeze; J.S. Dea sent to AHL, Garrett Wilson waived

A look at why the Pens did what they did today sending out JS Dea and Garrett Wilson

Pittsburgh Penguins v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

In two interesting moves, the Penguins have sent JS Dea back to the AHL and waived Garrett Wilson.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have re-assigned forward Jean-Sebastien Dea to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.

Dea, 24, skated in three games for the Penguins, scoring against the Ottawa Senators on December 8. He was re-claimed by the Penguins off waivers from the New Jersey Devils on November 29.

It’s interesting due to the timing of it, the NHL’s annual roster freeze for the holidays starts tomorrow night. Here’s the legalise if you’re into that sort of thing from the NHL CBA:

d) Holiday Roster Freeze.

(i) For all Players on an NHL Active Roster, Injured Reserve, or Players with Non-Roster and Injured Non-Roster status as of 11:59 p.m. local time on December 19, a roster freeze shall apply through 12:01 a.m. local time December 28, with respect to Waivers, Trades and Loans; provided, however, that Players may be Recalled to NHL Clubs during this period and, provided further, that if a Player is placed on Regular Waivers prior to the roster freeze period and is claimed during such roster freeze period, the roster freeze period shall not apply and the Player shall immediately report to the claiming Club. However, during the roster freeze period a Club can make any Player transactions necessary for the Club to come into compliance with Article 50 as a result of a Player being removed from the Bona-Fide Long-Term Injury/Illness Exception.

(ii) Notwithstanding Section 16.5(d)(i), a Player on emergency Recall may be Loaned during the roster freeze period and a Player who was Recalled after December 11 may be Loaned through 11:59 p.m. local time on December 23, provided such Player is not required to be placed on Waivers during the roster freeze period in order to effectuate such Loan.

(iii) No later than ten (10) days before the holiday roster freeze, the League shall provide the NHLPA with a holiday roster freeze and restricted day memorandum.

So, per the rules, players can come up from the AHL to NHL, but can’t be sent down. So if Wilson is claimed, they can bring Dea right back up — and might need to as well, since there would only be 10 healthy forwards plus one Patric Hornqvist.

If Wilson goes unclaimed the Pens have a decision to make to assign him to the AHL tomorrow before midnight, or the roster freeze will keep him in the NHL through the 28th.

So why would they do this? Sending Dea and Wilson down now would accrue a bit more cap space for Pittsburgh as the cap gets calculated in a prorated manner every day, that could be a factor to stay as lean as possible now for maximum effect near the deadline.

It could also mean Hornqvist is expected to play tomorrow night in Washington. It’s certainly nothing but a good sign, but a possible sign none the less. Tough to imagine the Pens would feel they could purge forwards if Hornqvist wasn’t a real possibility.

The freeze itself is no real big deal, Pittsburgh plays in Carolina Saturday then everyone gets a break for four days over Christmas and Boxing Day. They resume on the 27th at home against Detroit and then the freeze is lifted. This clause is in place so that teams can’t cut players (and their salaries if they’re on two-way deals) around the holidays when no one is playing to save money. It’s also some peace of mind for the players’, since they know they don’t have to hear bad news and relocate their families on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, for instance.

As of now Pittsburgh can afford to add $4.6 million in salaries on the day of the trading deadline. If they elect to send Wilson to the AHL (or he gets claimed by another team) prior to the holiday freeze, that number will be going up.

Today’s minor transactions are more careful calculations to flex on the salary cap and continue to position the Pens in the best possible place in February and the timing to complete just prior to the NHL’s annual holiday freeze is no coincidence.