Assessing this year's arbitration decisions

A lot of our attention this summer has been spent on restricted free agents and arbitration. With over 30 players having filed for arbitration, there was potential for a lot of drama between teams and players. As is generally customary, arbitration is the last resort in contract negotiations and the majority of players settled into contracts before reaching a hearing. There were five players that did go all the way to court and make a snap judgment as to who came out on top.

Antti Niemi – Chicago Blackhawks

Last year, Niemi made $800,000 on the way to helping the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup. He took the starting job away from incumbent starter Cristobal Huet and provided stability in goal for a team that needed that support. The Blackhawks wanted to sign him for $1.5 million, Niemi wanted $4 million, a difference that could cause consternation between the two sides down the road.

Decision: $2.75 million

The arbitrator split the difference between what each side was hoping for. Chicago is still in a salary cap bind and yet to decide what they’ll do with Niemi. Regardless of what they do, the Hawks had to figure they’d be in this position as it was highly unlikely that the arbitrator would side with them for the amount they were looking for. Whether they walk away from the award or keep him and adjust their roster after the fact remains to be seen.

Winner: Push

Ideally the salary works for the Blackhawks, but it’s still not small enough for them so they won’t have to tinker with the roster. Niemi gets a raise on what he was making before but didn’t get what he was looking for salary-wise. Plus there’s the possibility the Hawks walk away from the decision.

Blake Wheeler – Boston Bruins

Wheeler was making a base salary of $875,000 which then got boosted by nearly $2 million in bonuses to $2.825 million on the cap. Wheeler had a down season compared to his rookie campaign scoring fewer goals and points, all of which you would think would lead to a reduced reward in arbitration.

Decision: $2.2 million

Wheeler gets a raise on his base salary but less money overall. The Bruins are up against the salary cap themselves but get a bit of a break since Marco Sturm will likely start the year on LTIR thus knocking his salary off the books in the meantime. Given Wheeler’s age and what he’s done in two seasons it’s tough to get too grumpy about this if you’re the Bruins.

Winner: Boston

It’s tough to argue against this if you’re Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. You get to have a lower cap number for a guy who is (or at least should be) one of your top offensive contributors. The Bruins also get to test Wheeler to see if he can bring the scoring back up before they potentially go through this whole thing again next year.

Clarke MacArthur – Atlanta Thrashers

MacArthur made $1.4 million last season with Buffalo and Atlanta and scored 16 goals and 19 assists, good for 35 points. He logged good time averaging just over 15 minutes a game and making $1.4 million to do that isn’t such a bad way to make a living. Atlanta didn’t have much in the way of worry when it came to salary cap space so you’d think that with things going all the way through to an arbitration hearing there was a distinct difference in opinion over what he should make.

Decision: $2.4 million

A one million dollar raise for the nearly 25 year-old winger doesn’t seem entirely out of place, if he was making just six figures before. Seeing as how he was making $1.4 million already, however, makes this decision stand out in a baffling way. Suffice to say, the Thrashers walking away from MacArthur’s award was the least-surprising choice of the summer.

Winner: Atlanta

While the Thrashers are still looking to reach the salary floor, paying a potential third-line left wing $2.4 million to do it sets a dangerous bar for the the team when negotiating with other players. Clarke MacArthur will land a job elsewhere for sure, but it just won’t be for $2.4 million a year. By walking away, the Thrashers also eliminated MacArthur from being a comparable deal for other forwards who went to arbitration. Blake Wheeler won’t be sending Thrashers GM Rick Dudley a fruit basket this year.

Tim Kennedy – Buffalo Sabres

A 24 year-old winger who got his first real taste of the NHL this season. Kennedy spent most of the year on the third and fourth lines averaging just over 12 minutes a game. Kennedy scored 10 goals and had 16 assists. He had a base salary of $635,000 and made $850,000 after bonuses were factored in.

Decision: $1 million

You could almost hear Dr. Evil delivering that decision but truth be told, while it’s a raise on the base salary it’s not that big of a raise over all, going up just $150,000. About the only thing to worry about here for Tim Kennedy is potentially entering a brand new tax bracket.

Winner: Push

Sure, having his salary be officially a million dollars looks daunting but it’s not actually daunting in and of itself. I’m sure Kennedy appreciates the extra money.

Jannik Hansen – Vancouver Canucks

Hansen was a fourth line player for the Canucks last year playing in just 47 games last year and racking up nine goals and six assists while averaging just over 12 minutes of ice time per game. He made $550,000 last year putting him just above the league minimum salary of $500,000.

Decision: $825,000

A huge coup for Hansen to win this much. For a guy that wasn’t seeing a lot of playing time nor producing very much on the ice to get this much money in arbitration was a bit startling. It’ll also set the expectations a bit higher for him next season. Perhaps he might even play in all 82 games.

Winner: Jannik Hansen

Without a doubt Hansen is the runaway winner in this case. While it’s unclear how much he asked for and what the Canucks were looking to keep him at, there’s no doubt that Hansen getting a 50% raise is an immediate lightning rod for comparisons for players like him that might get their courage up to challenge their team for more money. The salary cap strained Canucks can’t be happy with even the comparatively slight raise to what amounts to a depth role player.

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    BREAKING: Ben Bishop reportedly traded to L.A. Kings

    NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning tends net against the New York Islanders during the second period at the Barclays Center on November 1, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    The L.A. Kings have reportedly acquired goalie Ben Bishop from the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    That is according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie and TSN on Sunday.

    The news comes one day after Jonathan Quick returned to the Kings crease after a 59-game absence due to a groin injury and was solid in a winning effort versus the Anaheim Ducks.

    The Kings are three points out of the final wild card spot in the West.

    More to come.

    Video: More evidence Connor McDavid is really good at hockey

    DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 13:  Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers celebrates his first career NHL goal against the Dallas Stars in the second period at American Airlines Center on October 13, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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    Connor McDavid once again had that blazing speed of his on display. The latest victims? The Nashville Predators on Sunday.

    The sophomore star scored his 21st goal of the season and league-leading 70th point thanks to a beautiful individual effort, putting his Oilers back into a tie game at the time.

    McDavid picked up the puck just outside his blue line, accelerated to beat Roman Josi in the neutral zone, beat Ryan Ellis with a move and immediately snapped his shot home for the goal.

    Two more Canucks players showing symptoms of the mumps

    BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 11: Ben Hutton #27 of the Vancouver Canucks skates against the Boston Bruins during the third period at TD Garden on February 11, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins defeat the Canucks 4-3. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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    There was good news and bad news for the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday, as the club deals with an outbreak of the mumps.

    First, the bad news: Head coach Willie Desjardins confirmed that forward Anton Rodin, defenseman Ben Hutton and trainer Brian Hamilton are now experiencing symptoms of the mumps.

    Initially, five players — Troy Stecher, Chris Tanev, Nikita Tryamkin, Mike Chaput and Markus Granlund — had been affected.

    The good news? Stecher, who had the first confirmed case of the mumps, was back on the ice Sunday for an optional practice, per the Canucks.

    The Canucks, nine points out of a playoff spot in the West, host the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday.

    The following day is the trade deadline, and the Canucks could be busy, with at least three players — Alex Burrows, Jannik Hansen and Ryan Miller — all mentioned as possible targets for other teams.

    Speaking to TSN 1040 radio on Friday, GM Jim Benning didn’t believe the mumps outbreak would impact his plans leading up to the deadline.

    Goalie Nods: James Reimer starts again for Panthers

    SUNRISE, FL - JANUARY 7: Goaltender James Reimer #34 of the Florida Panthers stops a shot by Patrice Bergeron #37 of the Boston Bruins during third period action at the BB&T Center on January 7, 2017 in Sunrise, Florida. The Bruins defeated the Panthers 4-0. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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    Huge game in the Atlantic Division on Sunday night when the Florida Panthers host the Ottawa Senators in a classic four-point game.

    The Senators enter the night tied with Boston for second place in the division with 70 points and four points ahead of the Panthers. Florida will be turning back to James Reimer for the start as he gets the call for the third time in the past four games as Roberto Luongo takes a back seat for the moment.

    On Sunday, Luongo told George Richards of the Miami Herald that is the way it should be at the moment.

    “Right now I don’t deserve to be playing,” Luongo told Richards. “That’s the bottom line. For me, everything is about the team and us winning games. James Reimer gives us a better chance to win every night than I am. Until I figure my [game] out this is the way it should go I think.”

    Luongo has surrendered at least three goals in eight of his past 10 appearances, while Reimer is carrying a .927 save percentage in the month of February.

    The Senators will go with Craig Anderson on Sunday night.

    Elsewhere on Sunday…

    — In the early games it was Tuukka Rask vs. Kari Lehtonen in the Boston Bruins-Dallas Stars, while Brian Elliott went against Eddie Lack in the Calgary Flames vs. Carolina Hurricanes game.

    Cam Talbot makes his league-leading 56th start of the season for the Edmonton Oilers when they take on the Nashville Predators. No word yet from the Predators on their starter.

    — Big game in the Metropolitan Division when the Columbus Blue Jackets visit the New York Rangers. Sergei Bobrovsky goes against Henrik Lundqvist in one heck of a goaltending matchup.

    — With Corey Crawford under the weather Scott Darling will start for the Chicago Blackhawks when they host the St. Louis Blues on NBCSN. Jake Allen will go start the Blues.

    Louis Domingue will start for the Arizona Coyotes when they host the Buffalo Sabres. No word yet from the Sabres on their starting goalie, but the team did call up Linus Ullmark from the AHL before the game.