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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    Lindholm in Sweden, won’t report to Ducks until contract signed

    Hampus Lindholm
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    Yesterday, we passed along news of Hampus Lindholm‘s contract demands — reportedly eight years, at least $6 million per — and news that the prized young d-man has been training in Sweden.

    Now, his agent has confirmed Lindholm won’t be leaving Sweden until the deal gets done.

    “Our plan is to report to the team once we have a contract signed,” said Claude Lemieux, per the O.C. Register. “Until then Hampus is training in Sweden.”

    The 22-year-old is currently skating with SHL club Rogle BK, the same team Lindholm played for prior to getting drafted sixth overall in 2012.

    The Ducks are already two games into their preseason schedule, and will play their third on Saturday in Arizona. From there, Anaheim has four exhibition games remaining — against the Kings, Oilers and two against the Sharks — before opening the regular season on Oct. 13 in Dallas.

    Lemieux confirmed to the Register that they’re working on a “long-term agreement” for Lindholm, adding that both he and Ducks GM Bob Murray are “working on getting this resolved ASAP.”

    The Ducks certainly need Lindholm in the lineup. He led all blueliners in goals last year, with 10, and averaged 22 minutes per night, second only to Cam Fowler on defense.

    Penguins to visit White House next week

    SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 12: The Pittsburgh Penguins pose for their photo with the Stanley Cup after their teams 3-1 victory to win the Stanley Cup against the San Jose Sharks in Game Six of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on June 12, 2016 in San Jose, California. The Pittsburgh Penguins defeat the San Jose Sharks 3-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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    The Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins will visit President Obama at the White House on Thursday (Oct. 6).

    These White House visits don’t always occur during the preseason (the 2015 champs from Chicago went in February, for example), but as you might have heard, there’s an election in November.

    This will be the Penguins’ second visit with President Obama. They first met him after winning in 2009, during his first term. That visit actually occurred in early September, before the Pens even reported to training camp.

    “With the Steelers and Penguins, I guess it’s a good time to be a sports fan in Pittsburgh,” Obama said during the visit.

    “I was complaining about this,” he then joked. “It’s been a while since Chicago won anything.”

    The next year, the Blackhawks won their first Cup since 1961.

    Hossa going ‘year-by-year,’ as his contract begins to dive

    CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 09:  Marian Hossa #81 of the Chicago Blackhawks talks to a teammate against the San Jose Sharks at the United Center on February 9, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Sharks defeated the Blackhawks 2-0.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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    Marian Hossa has one of those long-term, back-diving contracts they don’t let players sign anymore.

    When he signed the 12-year deal, all the way back in 2009, it was generally assumed he’d retired before it expired. (Remember, the NHL didn’t have the “cap recapture” penalty then; that was brought in a few years later.)

    This season, his salary dips to $4 million, from the $7.9 million he was paid in the first seven years of his deal. After that, it’s just $1 million in each of the final four years, per General Fanager.

    So, does the assumption that he’ll retire before his contract expires still hold?

    “I go year-by-year right now and I try to not focus on five years,” Hossa said, per the Chicago Tribune. “At this point, you never know what can happen. You know, too many injuries or these things can slow you down. Or anything can change. But right now I feel pretty good so I try to go for it.”

    Hossa can still play, make no mistake. His point production fell dramatically last season, and it remains to be seen if he’ll skate with Jonathan Toews in Chicago’s top six, or if he’ll be knocked down to the third line. But anyone who watched him during the World Cup knows he can still play.

    That being said, at 37, he’s one of the oldest players in the NHL. In fact, last season, there were only 10 forwards who were older, and that list will only grow shorter this season.

    So, will Hossa play five more years, until he’s 42? It will be incredible if he does. And if he doesn’t, will the Blackhawks incur a recapture penalty? Or will some sort of injury allow them to escape it?

    That all remains to be seen.

    “My goal is to play to where I can play my level,” he said, “and if not, go from there.”

    Related: Quenneville thinks Hossa ‘could be’ the next Jagr or Selanne

    Landeskog to remain captain under Bednar, his third head coach in Colorado

    DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 17:  Gabriel Landeskog #92 of the Colorado Avalanche looks on during a break in the action against the Montreal Canadiens at Pepsi Center on February 17, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Canadiens 3-2.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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    Per the Denver Post, new Colorado head coach Jared Bednar has informed Gabriel Landeskog he will remain Avs captain this season.

    It’s a speech Landeskog has heard before.

    Originally named captain back in 2012 under then-head coach Joe Sacco, Landeskog retained the “C” when the Avs fired Sacco in favor of Patrick Roy, and now retains it again over the third coaching change of his young career.

    “It needs to be said that I respected Patty on and off the ice and I enjoyed working with him for three years,” Landeskog said, per the Post. “But I’m really exited about having Jared here. It feels like he brings in a lot of fresh air and comes in with a lot of optimism about this group.

    “It feels like he believes in us.”

    Landeskog is certainly one to watch this season. His game has gone in a bit of a strange direction since capturing the Calder in 2012, marked by a steady decline in offense (from 65 points in ’13-14, to 59 in ’14-15, to 53 last year) and an increase in disciplinary issues.

    The 23-year-old was suspended three games in March for a “reckless and irresponsible” cross-check on Ducks d-man Simon Despres. Landeskog was visibly upset about his actions, especially given his leadership role and the fact the Avs were battling for their playoff lives.

    But there were signs of a somewhat reckless player prior to the Despres incident. Last November, he was suspended two games for a dangerous hit on Brad Marchand.

    These incidents could be why there was some question if Landeskog would retain his captaincy under Bednar.

    On that note, one thing to mention — while Landeskog will keep wearing the “C”, it sounds as though there’ll be changes under him in the leadership group. Bednar said the alternate captain positions, previously held by veterans Jarome Iginla and Cody McLeod — are up for grabs.

    The assistant captains and what we do with the rest of the group will be evaluated and then we’ll make decisions on that later on and whether it’s two guys, four guys, all the things that we want to consider as an organization,” Bednar said, per the Post. “We’re going to take the camp to evaluate it, just as we evaluate their play through camp and exhibition.”