Before we really start looking ahead to next year’s crop of restricted free agents, it would probably be best to finish dealing with this year’s class. While some of the restricted free agent negotiations could go on until the beginning of the season like
Steven Stamkos and Drew Doughty, some will be settled much sooner by an independent third-party.
It’s important to note that no one wants to go through with the arbitration hearings. The team no longer gets to determine the terms of the deal and the player loses the right to accept or decline an arbitrator’s award. Factor in that the process is never a pleasant one from a personal point of view and both sides would prefer a settlement 99% of the time. When the NHL announced the hearing schedule, there were twenty players who were slated to present their cases to an arbitrator. As the hearings actually get underway, eleven have settled to avoid the hearing and the Blackhawks already knew they were going to walk away from Chris Campoli’s award on Wednesday. Here’s the remaining schedule over the next couple weeks:
Brandon Dubinsky (7/21)
Josh Gorges (7/28)
Ryan Callahan (7/28)
Jannik Hansen (7/29)
Shea Weber (8/2)
Zach Parise (8/3)
Mark Fraser (8/4)
Blake Comeau (8/4)
It’s a near certainty that a few of these players will reach settlements with their teams before they ever step foot into a hearing. Then again, there are some disputes that look like they’re destined for an arbitration hearing (see: Dubinsky, Brandon). Many of the players remaining are vital to their teams’ chances next season. Dubinsky, Josh Gorges, Ryan Callahan, Shea Weber, and Zach Parise are all players who could make or break the 2011-12 season—the only question is how much will they be paid for next season.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll learn a couple of things. Not only will we find out how much each of these players will make, but we’ll also find out who will be the one deciding on the terms of the contract. How many teams and players will be willing to roll the dice in front of an arbitrator? We’ll keep you posted.