Clarke MacArthur's arbitration decision still raising questions about arbitration system

clarkemacarthur3.jpgIt’s been over a week since now former Thrashers forward Clarke MacArthur had his seemingly bizarre and oddly inflated arbitration award for $2.4 million walked away from by Atlanta making him an unrestricted free agent. We say bizarre because a player scoring 16 goals getting a $1 million raise seems rather out of place against what the market dictates.  As it turns out, there was more at work behind the scenes than you’d imagine as James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail shares.

When it came time to meet with an arbitrator, the Thrashers simply asked for the award to be presented immediately, based on the player’s demands, so they could then walk away from the contract.

That’s how a third-line forward who had 35 points landed a $2.4-million (all currency U.S.) award, one the hockey world has been puzzling over ever since.

“We said, you know what, maybe it wouldn’t be a bad thing if he gets this silly award,” Thrashers general manager Rick Dudley said. “We kind of encouraged it.”

Well that’s certainly a fun way to handle things from a management standpoint, opting to “fall on the grenade” and let the player “win” the case because they’re just going to walk away anyhow. With that sort of reaction from a team’s general manager some might start to question the validity of the arbitration system on the whole. After all, what Rick Dudley essentially did there was to throw the case and while MacArthur was going to win, the minimum walkaway number for teams was around $1.6 million.

Looking back at this year’s arbitration cases, we saw that eventually three players were sent packing either by their teams walking away from their awards (MacArthur and Antti Niemi) or via buyout (Tim Kennedy). Does this mean things are changing and the system is breaking down? Mirtle finds out from some general managers that this is just business as usual.

“I’ve always argued that if you go to a hearing, it’s actually the breakdown of the process,” said Ian Pulver, an agent who used to handle arbitration cases when he worked for the NHL Players’ Association. “The fear or the risk of having another person determine a player’s value, on either side, is what brings a settlement.”

Pulver said it was a positive sign that 26 of the 31 players who filed for arbitration this summer signed before their hearing. “That’s indicative of a process that’s working,” he said.

Arbitration, as it is, is made out to be the absolute last straw in negotiations between a restricted free agent and his team. After all, if neither side can come to an agreement how happy is either side going to be once things are hashed out in court? Someone is going to end up feeling bitter about things somehow. Even in Antti Niemi’s case where the arbitrator split the difference between what Niemi and the Blackhawks each wanted, the Blackhawks still got their way by cutting Niemi loose and signing Marty Turco for less money. With all that said, with what the Thrashers did concerning MacArthur and the Sabres with Kennedy have done is introduced a new kind of weapon to utilize when it comes to arbitration: the pink slip. It is just a business after all.

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    Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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    For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

    They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

    • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
    • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
    • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

    Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

    Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

    Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

    Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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    The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

    (Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

    Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

    You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

    It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

    Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

    Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

    Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

    Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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    If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

    You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

    The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

    For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

    (Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

    The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

    Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

    Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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    It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

    The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

    The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

    One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.