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 …

‘It’s absolutely not true’ — Lemieux denies report of ‘big falling out’ with Crosby

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 5:  Sidney Crosby #87 and Mario Lemieux #66 of the Pittsburgh Penguins share a few words during a break in action against the New Jersey Devils in their NHL opening night game at the Continental Airlines Arena on October 5, 2005 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  The Devils won 5-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Well, that didn’t take long.

Just hours after Matthew Barnaby went on the radio and said he’d heard that Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux had had a “big falling out,” Lemieux came out and denied it.

“It’s absolutely not true,” said Lemieux, per the club’s Twitter account. “It’s silly.”

Today marked the second time in less than two weeks that the Penguins have been forced do some damage control.

Last week, the Penguins insisted that they weren’t actually “mad at each other,” as Evgeni Malkin had put it after a bad loss to New Jersey.

“He did not mean we are mad at each other,” said Crosby. “He meant we are frustrated.”

Matthew Barnaby has heard that Crosby and Lemieux had a ‘big falling out’

Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel

Every day there seems to be another “thing” about the Pittsburgh Penguins.

We say “thing,” because we’re not really sure how to categorize it. It’s never anything concrete. It’s smoke, without definitive proof of a fire.

But whether it’s Evgeni Malkin saying the Penguins are “mad at each other”…or Guy Lafleur wondering if Sidney Crosby should try and find a new team…or a prominent NHL reporter like Elliotte Friedman talking about the “very tense environment” in the organization…

The clear insinuation is that all is not well in Pittsburgh.

The latest “thing”?

Ex-Penguin Matthew Barnaby has “looked into it” and what’s he’s heard is that Crosby and co-owner Mario Lemieux have had a “big falling out.”

“Now whether that pushes them to move him at some point? Whether he wants to move? That I don’t know,” Barnaby said today on SiriusXM, via Puck Daddy.

Again, it’s all just scuttlebutt at this point. After Malkin’s “mad at each other” remark, the players insisted that that wasn’t true. Malkin said he didn’t mean it that way.

So choose for yourself what to believe.

But despite the winning record, unless this team starts playing the way it was designed to play — i.e. scoring a lot of goals, not the 26th-most in the NHL — don’t be surprised if you hear more “things.”

The Penguins host St. Louis tonight.

Goalie nods: Marquee matchup as Price faces Lundqvist at MSG

Henrik Lundqvist
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Two of the NHL’s premier netminders will do battle tonight in New York, when Carey Price and the Canadiens visit Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers.

Price, who’s played a pair of games since missing extended time with a lower-body injury, has won both of his starts and is now 9-2-0 on the year with a 2.10 GAA and .933 save percentage.

Great numbers, but nothing compared to the King.

Lundqvist — probably this year’s Vezina front-runner, after Price won last season — is a sparking 12-3-2 with a 1.74 GAA and .946 save percentage, posting shutouts in two of his last six starts.

One of those shutouts came in his last outing, a 31-save blanking of the Preds on Monday.

Now… with all that hype, we should tap the brakes. The last time PHT previewed a “goalie duel” was when Lundqvist and St. Louis’ Jake Allen engaged in a battle of the NHL’s two highest save percentages.

The Blues and Rangers then combined for nine goals, with Allen getting the hook 15 minutes into the contest.


Carter Hutton appears ready to give Pekka Rinne a night off in Buffalo, while the Sabres are going with Linus Ullmark once again.

Ryan Miller takes on Devan Dubnyk as the Canucks play in Minnesota.

Anders Nilsson will keep Cam Talbot bolted to the pine when Edmonton faces the ‘Canes. Cam Ward looks likely to go for Carolina.

Michael Hutchinson, not Connor Hellebuyck, for the Jets in Washington. The Caps will start Braden Holtby.

— Another good matchup in Pittsburgh, as Jake Allen and the Blues take on Marc-Andre Fleury and the Penguins.

Sergei Bobrovsky goes for the Jackets tonight, while the Devils counter with Cory Schneider.

— In Brooklyn, Jaroslav Halak starts for the Islanders. The visiting Flyers will go with their No. 1, Steve Mason.

— Sounds like Jonas Gustavsson will go up against his former team when the Bruins take on the Red Wings in Detroit. He’ll square off against Petr Mrazek.

Mike Smith returns from a lower-body injury to get the nod for Arizona. Hard to say what the Ducks are going to do: Frederik Andersen has the flu, Anton Khudobin got yanked last night against Calgary, and John Gibson came on in relief for the win.

Craig Anderson for Ottawa tonight, Semyon Varlamov for Colorado.

Martin Jones, the NHL’s reigning first star of the week, is in for the Sharks against the visiting Blackhawks. Corey Crawford counters for Chicago.

Stars’ Lehtonen (upper body) day-to-day

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The collision that forced Kari Lehtonen from his relief appearance in last night’s loss to Ottawa could keep him off ice four a couple of days, Stars head coach Lindy Ruff confirmed.

Lehtonen, who entered the contest after Antti Niemi allowed three goals on nine shots, was injured just over a minute into the third period when d-man John Klingberg crashed into the Dallas net.

Ruff suggested a goalie would be recalled from AHL Texas in time for the Stars’ next game, which is on Friday against the Canucks.

While losing Lehtonen would hurt the Stars — he’s 9-1-0 this year with a .921 save percentage and 2.41 GAA — the club can fall back on Niemi who, despite the rough outing against the Sens, has been OK this year.

Niemi has a 8-4-1 record, though his GAA (.264) and save percentage (.907) leave something to be desired.