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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    The Buzzer: Shutouts for three, Dubnyk gets win No. 200

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    Players of the Night:

    Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins, Keith Kinkaid, New Jersey Devils and Curtis McElhinney, Toronto Maple Leafs: Where do we begin on the night of the shutout? Rask didn’t have a particularly busy night making 23 saves, but when you’re facing names like Kucherov and Stamkos, it’s always dangerous. Still, Rask kept rolling along. He is 27-3-2 in his past 32 starts. That’s just silly. … Kinkaid, meanwhile stopped 38 — including 19 in the first period — in a 3-0 win against the Kings for his fourth career shutout. … No Frederik Andersen for Toronto? No problem. McElhinney stepped in and pitched a 33-save performance as the Leafs down the Montreal Canadiens 4-0.

    Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues: The Blues defenseman scored twice in regulation and then assisted on Brayden Schenn‘s overtime winner to cap off a three-point night.

    Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild: While he didn’t get a shutout, Dubnyk did stop 30 of 31 en route to his 200th career NHL win. The win was also important for the Wild, who moved to within five points of the Winnipeg Jets for second place in the Central Division, and moved five points ahead of the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche for third place.

    Highlights of the Night:

    Filthy pass:

    First-goal celebrations are always the best:

    Voracek with a slick move in front:

    Save of the year candidate:

    Factoids of the Night:

    Home is where the wins are:

    A legend passes a legend:

    Believe in McJesus:

    Scary Scenes of the Night:


    Sabres 5, Blackhawks 3

    Oilers 4, Panthers 2

    Devils 3, Kings 0

    Maple Leafs 4, Canadiens 0

    Bruins 3, Lightning 0

    Flyers 4, Hurricanes 2

    Blue Jackets 2, Senators 1

    Blue 4, Rangers 3 (OT)

    Wild 3, Coyotes 1

    Sharks 5, Canucks 3

    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Senators’ Ryan Dzingel drilled in the head with a puck (video)

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    We already saw one lacerated leg, and now we have a one-timer drilling a player in the back of the helmet.

    Saturday night hasn’t been so kind.

    Ottawa Senators forward Ryan Dzingel was forced to leave the game after some friendly fire against the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 2-1 loss.

    Dzingel was drilled in the back of the head from teammate Mike Hoffman‘s one-timer of the back of his helmet around the mid-way point of the third period.

    Dzingel remained down for a time but was able to skate off the ice with some assistance from Ottawa’s trainers.

    He did not return to the game.

    If you watch this closely, you will see Dzingel’s No. 8 on the back of his helmet fly off after contact with the puck.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Bruins’ David Backes suffers leg laceration in collision (video)


    A scary scene unfolded in the first period between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the visiting Boston Bruins on Saturday night.

    David Backes and Yanni Gourde came together in the Lightning crease, with Gourde’s skate appearing to cut Backes on the outside of his right leg.

    Backes was able to make his way to the Bruins bench on his own, but he was clutching the back of his leg before getting some help down the tunnel.

    Backes did not return to the game.

    The Bruins said that Backes suffered a laceration above his right knee, which required several stitches to close.

    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Dundon, Hurricanes suspend search for new GM: report


    The Carolina Hurricanes’ search for a general manager is on hiatus.

    Sportsnet’s John Shannon reported Saturday that the process of replacing former GM Ron Francis is being put on hold for the time being, citing that owner Tom Dundon needs more time.

    “Tom hasn’t had the time he needs to do face to face interviews and feels that waiting will pay off,” Shannon wrote in a tweet.

    Francis was removed from his post as GM on March 7 and “promoted” to a new role as president of hockey operations. There was only one catch: whoever replaced Francis would bypass the Hurricanes’ legend and report directly to Dundon.

    The search, thus far, hasn’t been going that well, with three potential targets already withdrawing any interest they were thought to have had.

    Part of that problem could be how hands-on Dundon appears to want to be. Part of it could just be timing. Fenton, for instance, could be on his way to a Stanley Cup ring this year in Nashville.

    Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman touched on the situation in a recent 31 Thoughts column.

    “I think what I’m looking for, is we have to be comfortable with each other. That’s the most important thing,” Dundon told Friedman when asked what he wants in a new GM. “I actually like to disagree and argue. I don’t want someone to come in and just do what I say, and I don’t want to make decisions. Someone to create a structure of how something is a good idea, and now we are going to get it done.”

    You can add Pittsburgh Penguins assistant GM Bill Guerin to the list:

    I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that Dundon wanting his hands all over the team — including whatever the GM is doing — isn’t the best selling point.

    There’s some good, young talent on the Hurricanes for a new GM to come in and build around, but there’s also some dead weight, including what’s turned into a bad contract with goalie Scott Darling.

    No GM wants to play puppet for an owner.

    TSN’s Pierre LeBrun said the Hurricanes will suspend their search until the summer when a larger crop of candidates reveals itself.

    Still, you have to wonder who’ll be willing to take that plunge. Someone will, of course, but people haven’t exactly been lining up to fill the role.

    UPDATE: On Headlines on Saturday, Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reported that the salary being offered to a prospective GM in Carolina is $400,000, to which he said he doesn’t see any GM taking as it’s too low. Friedman, meanwhile, believes the search for a new GM is not on a complete hiatus.

    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck