Tag: arbitration hearing

Shea Weber

WeberWatch finally has some concrete figures as arbitrator weighs each side

For weeks months, the Nashville organization and their fans have had one thing on their mind: sign captain Shea Weber for as long as possible. As the season ended, both sides were adamant that a deal would get done; when the Predators filed for arbitration, it was merely a procedural move as they continued to negotiate with the face of their franchise. Fast forward two months and the tight-budgeted Predators not only reached the deadline with Weber—but they went ahead with a dangerous arbitration hearing with the Norris Trophy candidate.

What in the world could cause the two sides go through with the process that is universally regarded as a poisonous experience for both the team and the player? Money of course.

After the two sides were unable to reach an agreement without the help of an arbitrator, reports surfaced of the numbers being thrown around by each side. Both Elliott Friedman and Darren Dreger confirmed that the numbers weren’t even in the same ballpark—Weber’s camp presented a case that asked for $8.5 million for next season; David Poile and the Predators asked for a one-year deal worth $4.75 million. And people wondered why the two sides weren’t able to reach an agreement.

Some quick elementary math tells us the median between the two sides would put next year’s salary in the $6.6 million range. Not surprisingly, Weber’s case to make $8.5 million next season would be stronger than the Predators position at $4.75 million. If Weber were to make $8.5 million, he’d be the highest paid defenseman in the league and fourth highest paid player in the league. The numbers are high—but it’s easier to make than argument than to say he should make Kevin Bieksa money. He’s a better player, who is more important to his team, who is entering his prime.

Is Weber the most valuable defenseman in the league? Maybe. Maybe not. But he’s in the conversation.

Of course, the arbitrator will rule somewhere between the two extremes. Unlike Major League Baseball’s process that forces the arbitrator to choose one side or the other, the NHL arbitration process allows a judgment that compensates fair market value. Since the process does not force the independent third-party to choose an argument, both sides will negotiate to the extreme. Poile and the Predators don’t think that Weber is worth $4.75 million and it’s doubtful Weber’s agent thinks he’s worth $8.5 million. But within the context of the negotiations, both sides present their excessive cases and the arbitrator will rule in the middle.

Citing an NHL source, Dennis Bernstein of The Fourth Period says the final judgment will fall between $6.5 and $7 million—with Weber’s side presenting the stronger case. The source also added that arbitrators don’t like to set the market. Then again, somewhere in Los Angeles, Dean Lombardi and Drew Doughty are eagerly awaiting the arbitrators’ award. Not that this will affect the standoff in California and create a viable comparable or anything.

No matter what happens, the Predators lose in this battle. The last thing they wanted to do was to go through with an arbitration hearing with the most important person in their organization—let alone sign him to a one-year contract. For those keeping track at home, that means Weber, Pekka Rinne, and Ryan Suter will all be free agents next summer. For a team that is operating on a strict budget, this is the worst case scenario.

Now we wait for the arbitrator to make their decision between now and Thursday afternoon.

Predators sign defenseman Tyler Sloan, prepare for possible arbitration with Weber

Washington Capitals v Pittsburgh Penguins
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The Nashville Predators made a minor move on Thursday by signing former Capitals defenseman Tyler Sloan to a one-year deal. Sloan became an unrestricted free agent this summer after the Capitals bought-out the remaining year on his contract that was scheduled to pay him $700,000 this season. Last season, Sloan had a goal and five assists in 33 NHL games as he split time between the Washington Capitals, Hershey Bears, and the press box.

The move gives the Predators more depth on the blueline as they work to resolve a few question marks. General Manager David Poile has already announced that the team plans on auditioning a few of their highly-touted defensive prospects for third-pairing roles behind the likes of Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, Jonathan Blum, Kevin Klein, and/or Brett Lebda. Adding more intrigue to the corps of defensemen—and possibly causing the Predators to sign Sloan for insurance purposes is that Francis Bouillon experienced another setback in his recovery for last season’s concussion. GM Poile explained:

“Things were looking very good. He was exercising at a very high level and his confidence to be ready for training camp was very good. Then he had these headaches. So our medical staff has recommended he back off his workouts.”

Sloan would bring in more depth for a team that is already planning on breaking in a few youngsters into the line-up. Only time will tell if Sloan is comfortable in the role though. It was reported that the Capitals bought Sloan out of his contract because he asked for a trade in order to get more playing time. Here’s what Jeff Helperl (Sloan’s agent) had to say after the Caps parted ways with his client:

“He wanted to get to a spot that he could play. He was always used as a seventh or eighth defenseman.”

Unless he plans on playing more time as a forward or the NHL allows teams to dress eight defensemen on a nightly-basis, there’s a very good chance he’ll wind up in the press box just as often as he did in Washington.

More importantly for the Predators and their fans, the team continues to work towards a deal with their superstar captain Shea Weber. If the two sides are unable to come to an amicable decision on their own, Weber’s arbitration hearing is set for Tuesday, August 2nd. If they can’t work something out before the hearing, an independent arbitrator will rule on Weber’s worth and the team will agree to any of the terms handed down. Realistically, the Predators will sign Weber no matter how expensive the terms would be next week—they’d just like to bring him back at the most cost-effective price. GM Poile talked about their plans over the next few days:

“We are preparing to go to Toronto (for arbitration). Would I like to sign Shea to a longer-term contract vs. going to arbitration? Absolutely.”

Of course Poile would like to sign Weber before arbitration. In other news, the sky is blue and the sun is bright. Bringing in Tyler Sloan for depth purposes will have no affect whatsoever on the Weber negotiations. However, one has to wonder just how bad Bouillon’s concussion really is. After looking like he was going to hit training camp in great condition, now there are questions whether he’ll be healthy enough to start camp on time with his teammates on September 15.

One thing we know is Tyler Sloan will be there—and a much wealthy Shea Weber.

Clarke MacArthur: “Going to arbitration, it’s just a bad deal all together”

Toronto Maple Leafs v New Jersey Devils

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?

Waiting until the last minute: Arbitration hearings still pending

Boston Bruins v New York Rangers

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.

Blackhawks walk-away from Campoli, defenseman becomes unrestricted free agent

Corey Crawford

The writing has been on the wall ever since the Blackhawks went out and acquired Sami Lepisto: Chris Campoli’s brief tenure in Chicago was coming to an end. After going through the perfunctory exercise of an arbitration hearing, the Blackhawks officially announced they are walking away from Campoli and the 1-year, $2.5 million contract the arbitrator awarded the defenseman. The team had publically stated that they were working diligently to reach a deal with the 27-year-old defenseman—but those plans feel by the wayside as the two-sides couldn’t agree to terms.

Campoli amassed 4 goals and 17 assists last year in 77 games for the Ottawa Senators and Chicago Blackhawks. In fact, the Campoli acquisition was one Bowman’s major moves at the trade deadline in hopes of sparking another long playoff run the Hawks. In 19 games in the Windy City, he had a goal and 7 points. He was never going to be a superstar while playing behind guys like Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson, but he still managed to be dependable player for the Hawks during his short stay. He averaged over 19 minutes per game, spent time on both the power play and penalty kill, and saw important minutes in the playoffs as well. Unfortunately for both sides, they couldn’t agree on his role going forward.

General manager Stan Bowman explained the difference of opinion:

“It was apparent from the beginning that their salary demands were not in concert with where we see him fitting in our team,” Bowman said last week. “We tried to work it out with Chris. We went back and forth and made him our best offer and it didn’t work for them.”

Judging by the Sami Lepisto acquisition, the Blackhawks have already moved forward with the offseason. Lepisto’s 4 goals and 16 points with the Phoenix Coyotes and Columbus Blue Jackets last year were similar to Campoli’s output with the Sens/Hawks. The major difference is Lepisto agreed to a one-year contract with only $750,000. For a team that is looking at the salary cap, almost $2 million is a huge difference for players with comparable production. This decision will give Bowman a bit of flexibility going into the season—something every general manager would like to have. It’s particularly impressive considering the Hawks already have eight defenseman under contract for next season. Yes, we’re considering John Scott an actual defenseman.

For Campoli, the future isn’t as clear as it is for the Hawks. The young blueliner will now scramble for a job after most teams have completed their major offseason shopping. Thankfully for him, the two-sides were able to move his hearing up to July 20th (originally set for August 4th) so he’ll have more time to look for a new gig. Not only will he need to find a team that is looking for a defenseman—he needs to find a team that can afford a new defenseman.

To start the speculation: a team like the New York Islanders would be a decent fit. He spent the first four years of his NHL career with the Isles before a mid-season trade sent him to Ottawa in 2009. In 2005-06, he posted careers bests with 9 goals and 25 assists in 80 games. Unfortunately for both Campoli and the Isles, his rookie year turned out to be the high-water mark of his career thus far. Perhaps the former 7th round draft pick would be able to recapture the magic that had Campoli as one of the rising young defensemen in the league.

We’ll keep track of the story as Campoli looks for his next employer.