Zach Parise, Shea Weber, Pekka Rinne, Jerred Smithson

Salary arbitration hearings begin Wednesday; Here’s what you need to know

For the most part, free agency can be a beautiful thing for hockey players. It’s a time in which teams spend stupid amounts of money on players who rarely justify those salaries, all in the name of splashy headlines and the dream of improvement. (Sometimes it even works out, too.)

That being said, it’s not always peaches and cream for these athletes. One of the least sought after experiences is salary arbitration. While it can be a necessary evil for teams and restricted free agents who cannot come to an agreement on an individual’s value, that evil often requires that player’s own front office to point out his weaknesses. That’s not exactly the greatest pep talk coming from a team that you’re expected to play your heart out for.

Wednesday, July 20 will mark the first day of this year’s arbitration hearings, although it’s important to note that the hearings aren’t guaranteed to happen. The two sides are allowed to come to terms on a new deal just minutes before a hearing is supposed to take place. Teddy Purcell could very well sign a deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning before his 9 a.m. hearing tomorrow, for instance. (That wouldn’t be too shocking, either, since the Lightning don’t have to worry about signing Steven Stamkos anymore.)

That being said, you might want an idea of which players are slated for hearings at this moment in time. Here are the 11 players who are still scheduled for the hearings.

July 20: Teddy Purcell (Tampa Bay Lightning); Lauri Korpikoski (Phoenix Coyotes)

July 21: Brandon Dubinsky (New York Rangers)

July 28: Josh Gorges (Montreal Canadiens); Ryan Callahan (Rangers)

July 29: Jannik Hansen (Vancouver Canucks)

August 2: Shea Weber (Nashville Predators)

August 3: Chris Campoli (Chicago Blackhawks); Zach Parise (New Jersey Devils)

August 4: Mark Fraser (Devils); Blake Comeau (New York Islanders)

Before we get into what the two sides can and cannot discuss in the arbitration hearings themselves, here are a few interesting notes. Campoli is the one player who is all but guaranteed to find a new home; the Blackhawks already admitted that they couldn’t come to terms with the mistake-prone offensive defenseman. The two biggest names on this list – Weber and Parise – are also the only two players whose teams nominated them for arbitration. (It’s much more common for players to file themselves.)

Now that you know the schedule for the hearings, you might want to know how the two sides might lay out their arguments. Chris Johnston did a great job of describing the general process in his story about Blake Wheeler avoiding arbitration.

Each of the arbitration hearings is held in Toronto and follows a specific protocol laid out in the CBA. The sides each get the floor for 90 minutes and are limited in what evidence they can use to support their case.

The presentations are allowed to focus on a player’s statistics, his contribution to team success and identifying others around the league with similar numbers that draw a salary in the desired range. However, they must not include references to a team’s salary cap situation, any history of negotiations between the player and the team or make a comparison to a deal signed by an unrestricted free agent.

Following the hearing, the arbitrator has 48 hours to make a decision and will provide a brief explanation of why he settled on a specific salary.

If the award is for more than $1,633,131 on a one-year deal, the team has the right to walk away from the ruling and let the player become an unrestricted free agent. That happened a year ago with the Chicago Blackhawks and goaltender Antti Niemi.

Otherwise, the sides go forward with the contract dictated by the arbitrator.

Obviously, we’ll keep a close eye on those 11 players. Who knows, the PHT staff might even debate the merits of certain players in our own “mock arbitration” sessions if you all behave nicely …

Datsyuk ‘wants to make sure the Wings have options,’ says his agent

TAMPA, FL - APRIL 21:  Pavel Datsyuk #13 of the Detroit Red Wings checks his stick before a face-off against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on April 21, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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Pavel Datsyuk‘s future with the Detroit Red Wings and in the National Hockey League has been up in the air for a while now, as he’s linked to rumors of a return to Russia and the KHL.

His agent, Dan Milstein, recently explained to the Detroit Free Press that Datsyuk’s future should become clear in mid-June after meeting with Red Wings general manager Ken Holland.

As per General Fanager, Datsyuk has one more year left on his current deal, which comes with a cap hit of $7.5 million.

From the Detroit Free Press:

“He would like to leave, but at the same time, he wants to make sure the Wings have options,” Milstein said. “He wants to help the team any way he can with the salary cap issue.”

Wings general manager Ken Holland has said there are no loopholes. Because Datsyuk signed his last contract after he turned 35, his $7.5 million salary cap hit remains in tact even if Datsyuk departs. The Wings’ only option is to trade his contract to a team such as Arizona or Carolina that could use the hefty cap hit in order to be above the salary cap minimum.

At the age of 37, his career in the league started in 2001-02, and has spanned 953 regular season games in which he’s accrued 918 points.

He’s had a highly decorated career, with two Stanley Cup championships with the Red Wings, three Selke and four Lady Byng trophies.

Allen or Elliott? Another goalie decision looms for Hitchcock

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues tends goal against Nick Spaling #16 of the San Jose Sharks during the third period in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The St. Louis Blues need to win Game 6 on Wednesday, or their season is over. Who they decide to turn to in net is likely to be a talking point — heated debate, maybe? — leading up to that contest.

Do they go back to Jake Allen for a third consecutive start, despite the fact he allowed four goals on 25 shots in Monday’s Game 5 loss to the San Jose Sharks? Or, will head coach Ken Hitchcock turn once again to Brian Elliott, who started every single game from the series opener of the first round versus Chicago to Game 3 of the Western Conference Final.

Hitchcock at least felt that going with Allen over Elliott in Game 4 provided the necessary spark for his team, as the Blues evened the series.

But on Monday, the Sharks, on the strength of two Joe Pavelski goals, eventually overpowered the Blues for the win, moving San Jose one victory away from the Stanley Cup Final.

“I thought he was fine. I don’t know, those are decisions we make in a day or so. But I thought he was fine today. He stopped some point-blank shots, especially early, three times early,” Hitchcock told reporters.

“I don’t know. That’s stuff we’ll talk about tomorrow.”

Feeding frenzy: Sharks send Blues to the brink of elimination in Western Conference Final

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The San Jose Sharks won a back-and-forth Game 5 to take back the lead in a back-and-forth Western Conference Final, moving one victory away from appearing in the Stanley Cup Final.

After scoring the tying goal late in the second period, Joe Pavelski notched his 12th of the playoffs to give San Jose the lead for good just 16 seconds into the third period.

The Sharks earned a 6-3 victory on the road, in a bounce-back effort from Saturday.

Twice, the Blues grabbed the lead. Troy Brouwer gave them the advantage in the first period, showing off his baseball skills by batting the puck into the net on a rebound. Robby Fabbri gave them another lead in the second period, making Roman Polak pay for snapping on Dmitrij Jaskin along the boards.

But the Blues couldn’t hold on. The Sharks scored twice on three power play opportunities and can now clinch the Western Conference on home ice in Wednesday’s Game 6.

As for the Blues, will Ken Hitchcock change up his starting goaltender again? It’s certainly an aspect of this series that will once again be up for debate leading up to Wednesday’s game.

After Brian Elliott had backstopped the Blues through the first two rounds and started the first three games of this series, Hitchcock decided to start Jake Allen in Game 4.

Allen recorded the win Saturday, and was called upon again in Game 5 as expected, but gave up four goals on 25 shots Monday.

Video: Sharks’ Polak snaps, Blues make him pay on the power play

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San Jose Sharks defenseman Roman Polak took serious issue with St. Louis Blues forward Dmitrij Jaskin during the second period, as the two eventually threw off the gloves off in a fight in the corner.

In the process, Polak let his emotions get the better of him — he snapped — by also taking a roughing minor to give the Blues a power play.

The Blues made him — and the Sharks — pay on a blast from Robby Fabbri, who was a game-time decision for Monday’s contest.

The Sharks tied the game at 3-3 before the end of the second period on Joe Pavelski‘s 11th of the playoffs. Pavelski struck again in the third period, giving San Jose the 4-3 lead.