Thursday, July 5, 2007

Understanding the Arbitration Process and the List

Arbitration is a tool that teams and players can use to handle salary disputes. It is only available to restricted free agents with four years of NHL experience. However, this term can be reduced for players that signed their first contract after the age of 20. Teams also have the ability to take their players to arbitration but a team may only take a player to arbitration one time in their career. Furthermore, a team can request no more than an 85% decrease in the player's salary. Players, on the other hand, can request an arbitration hearing as much as they'd like throughout their professional career.

In arbitration, the player (and their agent) and the team each propose a potential salary and then argue for why they believe that salary to be fair. They base their proposals on things such as the player's previous statistics, their overall contributions to the team's success or failure, and the salaries received by other players that are deemed comparable.

A decision is made within 48 hours and at that point the team has the right to accept the arbitrators decision and sign the player to the deal or walk away. If the team walks away, the player becomes an unrestricted free agent and can be signed by any team in the league.

After the big contracts that have been handed out, the most recent of which was to the fading Bill Guerin for $4.5 million per year, the arbitrators may price some of these players right out the door and off of their team. However, this does open up some options for teams like the Islanders and Sabres who both had the wind and soul knocked out of them on opening day of free agency.

According to TSN and a few other sites here are some noteworthy players that will be filing for arbitration:

Buffalo Sabres
Nathan Paetsch
Derek Roy

Buffalo won't let either of these players leave after the mass exodus that has already occurred. However, now that Vanek signed his enormous deal how much money do they have left to work with?

Dallas Stars
Antti Miettinen
Mike Ribeiro

Ribeiro is a creative, playmaking centerman who, at times, was the Stars best player last season. Therefore, I think the Stars, who are in absolute desperate need of scoring power, would be insane to let him go regardless of the ruling. Miettinen hasn't amounted to much in his 2 full NHL seasons scoring 31 points in the first season and 25 in the second. However, the Stars are short on youth and Antti shouldn't get a huge raise in arbitration making him easy to retain.

Los Angeles Kings
Mike Cammalleri

The 25 year old playmaking centerman was consistently the best player on the Kings' roster last season. He scored 34 goals and added 46 assists last season for a team that struggled to win hockey games and is in position for a huge raise. However, Los Angeles spent some cash in free agency so the question is whether or not they'll be able to retain him after the ruling. They'd be crazy not to, of course.

Montreal Canadiens
Michael Ryder

In his first NHL season (03-04) Ryder scored 25 goals and 63 points. His production has stayed consistent scoring 30 goals in each of the last two seasons. However, despite 30 goals and 58 points last season he was a -25 which will hurt him in arbitration. Regardless, a 30 goal scorer is due for a raise and the Canadiens, after failing to secure any big name free agents, will most likely keep him.

New York Islanders
Trent Hunter

After scoring 51 points in his first NHL season, Hunter settled to a total of 35 points in each of the last two seasons. He's 6'3 frame and scoring ability make him a desired asset and after losing so many people to free agency I expect the Islanders will grant him a long-term deal even before arbitration.

New York Rangers
Sean Avery
Marcel Hossa

The Rangers may be in trouble after spending all that money on Gomez and Drury if the arbitrator grants both Hossa and Avery solid deals. Buffalo could use someone of Avery's nastiness, as could Pittsburgh, but for some reason I don't see him landing on either of those teams. However, I don't think he'll be Ranger next season either. Marcel Hossa, on the other hand, will most likely stay with the blue shirts.

Ottawa Senators
Ray Emery
Chris Kelly
Christoph Schubert

Many were expecting multiple teams around the league to make offer sheets to Ray Emery forcing Ottawa's hand to either match those deals or let the restricted free agent leave the team. Considering that Ray Emery lead them to the Stanley Cup finals, I expect the arbitrator to grant Emery a huge award putting Ottawa in a serious bind. Also, Kelly and Schubert both had solid playoff performances and could be in line for a raise.

Pittsburgh Penguins
Colby Armstrong

After showing tremendous promise scoring 40 points in only 47 games during the 05-06 season, Armstrong was only able to muster 34 points in 80 games last season. He is, however, the kind of physical power forward that Pittsburgh so desperately needs so I don't seem him being anything other than a Pen next year.

St. Louis Blues
Lee Stempniak

Lee Stempniak had a break out sophomore season scoring 52 points in a full 82 games. The 24 year old has boat loads of talent and should play on the top line in St. Louis which all but guarantees that the Blues will accept whatever deal the arbitrator gives him.

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