My biggest issue is that this is the automatic way it's done. The roster is always full of veterans so there's little room for any of the prospects to even get a chance until someone gets hurt or until they've run out of waiver options. I'm sure it's because Babcock and Holland don't generally trust rookies/young players until they prove their worthiness, but maybe that's changed this year. I think it has with Babcock, and I hope it has with Holland. Not completely, I don't think they should abandon the process and rush Mantha, Pulkkinen, Athanasiou, Mrazek, and some of the young defensemen all up here next year, but start leaving room for some of them to get a decent taste of NHL action and go from there.
Well, it's not the automatic way it's done. More often than not the really good players do earn roster spots before they run out of waiver exemptions. Usually because they're good enough to earn an injury call-up prior to that, and perform well when they do. Occasionally it's just because we have an opening.
Fischer, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, Filppula, Helm, Smith, Brunner, Dekeyser... all of them did it. Possibly Hudler and Kronwall as well. Maybe even Abby (I think 07-08 counted as his first year, but maybe not).
Tatar and Nyquist are more exception than rule. The guys that normally get left down until they're out of options are the guys like Kindl, Emmerton, Andersson, Kopecky, Ritola, Mursak...
Free agency is a narrow window, and once you let that opportunity go you can't go back. Sign a proven player and leave a kid you think is ready in the minors: It doesn't work out, or you have injuries, you have the option of using that kid. Pick the kid instead of a proven player what happens if it doesn't work? Fall back on another kid you didn't think was as good as the first one?
And now we're getting to a point where kids are competing against other kids. Emmerton lost his spot to Andersson. Andy may be headed the same way, or if not then there's less opportunity for Glendening, Ferraro, and Callahan. Could be hard to find spots in the lineup for all of Tatar, Nyquist, Jurco, and Pulkkinen, even if we leave one or both of Jurco and Pulu in GR next year and that's not even considering Mantha possibly jumping one (or both) of them.
In short, nothing about how we handle young players needs to change. Mostly because we already handle them the way you're all suggesting anyway. The way we handled Nyquist this year should have been different, which is to say it should have been the way we handled other good kids in the past. But that's in the past, it worked out pretty well regardless, and there's no good reason to think it's a pattern or particularly likely to happen again.