In one of the increasingly rare cases of a salary arbitration hearing actually taking place, the Buffalo Sabres and forward Tim Kennedy told their sides of the story on Tuesday. The Buffalo News reports that an independent arbitrator will decide what Kennedy should earn either today or on Thursday.
Here’s some conjecture regarding the amount each side argued Kennedy might be worth.
Buffalo was believed to be offering about $700,000 — his $635,000 salary from last season plus a mandatory 10 percent raise for restricted free agents — on a one-year deal, or a higher base salary for a longer agreement. Kennedy was believed to be looking for more than $1 million per season, perhaps upwards of $1.4 million.
As we’ve discussed the last few days, arbitrators lean heavily on comparable statistics, which makes Kennedy a bit of a tough nut to crack. The Buffalo News describes why his situation was atypical.
Kennedy was in an unusual position because he had arbitration rights after playing one season in the NHL. He signed his first contract at age 22, which guaranteed a maximum two-year deal and arbitration when it expired. Younger players are given three-year contracts and cannot file for arbitration until after their fourth season.
It made for an interesting case Tuesday.
Arbitration rulings historically have come down to several variables, including statistics and experience, compared to other players. Kennedy is an effective two-way player who mostly had a checking role with the Sabres. He played against the opposing teams’ top lines, but his offensive productivity suffered in the process.
I imagine it must be difficult for a checking forward or shutdown defenseman to get a fair shake in this process since it seems to hinge so heavily on points. It’s much more difficult to prove a player’s defensive value – especially if their plus/minus takes a hit playing on a bad team – especially since I’d guess that arbitrators probably aren’t aware of advanced statistics.
We’ll keep you up to date as Kennedy and Blake Wheeler’s cases remain in limbo. Stay tuned.