If anyone knows what’s it’s like to go through a salary arbitration hearing, it’s Clarke MacArthur. Since 2009, this was the third time that MacArthur has filed for arbitration—yet the first time he was able to avoid an actual hearing. In 2009, he went into the hearing with the Buffalo Sabres and was awarded a one-year, $1.4 million contract. The team accepted, but he was traded in the middle of the season to the Atlanta Thrashers. Once in Atlanta, he went to arbitration again—this time receiving a one-year, $2.4 million award from the arbitrator. But this time, the team chose to walk away from the award instead of paying MacArthur the contract the arbitrator awarded. At that point, he became an unrestricted free agent available to the highest bidder.
Unfortunately for the young left wing, most of the jobs (and cap space) had already been spent earlier in the summer. He finally found a home in Toronto and saw his career start to blossom with his new team. He started the season on fire and ended up with 21 goals and 62 points in his first season with the Leafs. His reward: yet another arbitration date. But for once, MacArthur was able to come to terms before the actual hearing when he agreed to a 2-year deal worth $6.5 million.
One of the major reasons MacArthur came to terms before his hearing was because he didn’t want to go through the process again. He explained his side of the negotiations to Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun:
“I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to avoid it. It was good that we got it done and good that the Leafs wanted to get it done.”
He continued by explaining the process and how it can affect a players psyche
“Going to arbitration, it’s just a bad deal all together. Teams have to downplay you. I know you have to have that in the system, but it’s just something you don’t want to have to go through.”
It’s no wonder he was trying to avoid that process. Once in a career would be enough for most players, but he was staring at the third time in three years. When players talk about the horror stories, it makes it much easier to understand when the vast majority of players and teams settle before going before an arbitrator. This season only Chris Campoli and the Blackhawks have actually gone into the hearing—and the Blackhawks were already going to walk away from the defenseman before the hearing even started. Brandon Dubinsky and the New York Rangers were able to miraculously come to an agreement this morning before their hearing even though they were reportedly miles apart in their negotiations only 24 hours before the hearing. Players don’t want to go through the process—and teams don’t want to either.
We’ll keep an eye on the rest of the arbitration hearings over the next few weeks as there are still seven hearings scheduled between July 28 and August 4. Judging by the track record this offseason, how many do you think will actually be heard by an arbitrator?