The Winnipeg Jets placed forward Ben Maxwell on waivers Wednesday, and while that move means there is the possibility the 23-year-old centre will end up with the American Hockey League’s St. John’s IceCaps, it’s far from a certainty.
Since the start of the 2011-12 National Hockey League season, the Jets have placed four other forwards on waivers and only one — centre Aaron Gagnon — has wound up with the IceCaps.
Tim Stapleton cleared waivers in early October and he’s still with Winnipeg. So is winger Kenndal McArdle, who was put on waivers last week and went unclaimed. And late last month, the Jets attempted to send left-winger Brett MacLean to St. John’s, but he was re-claimed by the Phoenix Coyotes, who had lost MacLean on waivers to Winnipeg earlier in the season.
With Maxwell, Winnipeg may be looking to obtain some pre-built roster flexibility in anticipation of a recall from St. John’s, an acquisition from outside the organization, or the return of players from the injured reserve list. There are five Jets — goalie Chris Mason, defencemen Tobias Enstrom, Ron Hainsey and Derek Meech and forward Eric Fehr — on injured reserve and if one or more returns to active status, it would create an roster overflow; NHL teams can’t carry more than 23 active players.
The 23 currently on Winnipeg’s active list includes four recent call-ups from St. John’s — defencemen Mark Flood, Brett Festerling and Paul Postma, and goalie Peter Mannino.
Of that group, Flood, who has two goals, an assist and a plus-two rating, has seen the most playing time. Although positional need would be a factor, that would seem to indicate he’s the least likely to be the first returned.
If a player clears waivers, teams have a window in which to assign that player to the minors. The window closes after 30 days or if that player dresses for 10 NHL games after he clears. That means, for example, Stapleton is no longer eligible to be assigned to St. John’s, but that McArdle is.
Maxwell, who had started the season on injured reserve, has no points and a minus-two rating in four games with Winnipeg. Originally a second-round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 2006, he was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers in February in a deal that brought Brent Sopel to the Habs.
Prior to this season, the six-foot-one, 195-pounder had appeared in 32 games with the Canadiens and Thrashers, with a goal, an assist and 17 penalty minutes.
If Maxwell does clear waivers and is assigned to the IceCaps, it remains to be seen if he would arrive in St. John’s in time for the Caps’ next game, which is Saturday, when they host the Connecticut Whale, the farm team of the New York Rangers, at Mile One Centre.