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Binnington, Trouba rank as most interesting salary arbitration cases

NHL players usually don’t make it all the way through the salary arbitration process, but the deadlines involved often push teams, players, and agents to hash something out — sometimes within hours of a potentially contentious hearing.

Few of the 40 players who elected to go to salary arbitration will actually make it all the way there; Malcolm Subban‘s already off the list as of Tuesday, July 9. Still, with names like Jordan Binnington, Jacob Trouba, David Rittich, and Will Butcher among those who filed, the list is relevant, whether the deadlines speed up the process or the teams face the unenviable task of talking down their respective values without burning bridges.

You can see the list, with dates, at the bottom of this post. It’s notable not just that Binnington is on it, but that he’s set to go on July 20, the first day of a process that runs through Aug. 4.

Before you get to the full list, consider some of the most intriguing players who filed.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

Jordan Binnington: As we’ve discussed at PHT, it’s difficult to find easy parallels for the Stanley Cup success story, who will turn 26 on July 11.

Binnington was sensational as a driving force of the Blues’ historic turnaround to their first-ever Stanley Cup, going 24-5-1 (!) with a sparkling .927 save percentage during the regular season. While his postseason save percentage dipped to .914, he was a rock for the Blues, getting stronger as each series went along. That point was made clearest in Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, as he made the difference as St. Louis beat the Bruins in Boston.

Binnington’s side could easily lead with the argument: “Well, how much is a Stanley Cup worth to you?”

The Blues’ side isn’t outrageous, either.

Binnington now only has 33 regular-season games (plus 26 playoff games) on his NHL resume, which isn’t much for a soon-to-be 26-year-old. Part of Binnington’s Cinderella story is that he struggled to gain opportunities, even at lower levels. While fairly impressive stats in the AHL and at other levels argue that Binnington probably deserved more looks, St. Louis could still argue his side down based on a small sample size.

It’s tough to imagine the Blues wanting to go too deep into pessimism here, though, and it would probably behoove them to strike a deal before an arbitrator gets to see GIFs of Binnington making breathtaking, Cup-winning saves.

(GIFs should totally be involved in these processes, in my opinion.)

Quite a few Blues runs have been derailed by bad goaltending, leaving fans to wonder what might happen if they finally got that guy who could make stops. Cap management is important, but at some point, you just have to stop messing with a good thing … even if it remains to be seen if Binnington can come close to duplicating this success.

Jacob Trouba: The Rangers gained Trouba’s rights, but being that he’s one of the rare players to go deep into the process, as Trouba did with Jets in 2018, New York probably realizes that it might not be easy to nickel-and-dime the defenseman.

The New York Post’s Larry Brooks reports that a contract could be mammoth: something in the seven year range term-wise, with a cap hit that could be well above $7M.

Trouba’s time with Winnipeg has occasionally dulled his stats, as he’s battled Dustin Byfuglien and even Tyler Myers for certain opportunities. Perhaps the Rangers could sand away a hearing with a focus on previous efforts, but with Trouba managing 50 points this past season, that might not go far. Really, the Rangers probably want to lock him up long-term, so it would be surprising if they’d want to risk souring anything with Trouba, especially since the Jets situation spoiled long ago.

The Rangers also have to realize that Trouba is comfortable exploring whatever limited options his RFA rights provide.

David Rittich: Is Rittich the Flames’ goalie of the future, or will he lose out even to Cam Talbot next season? “Big Save Dave” showed some flashes of brilliance, yet he ceded key late starts to Mike Smith in 2018-19, and his .911 save percentage won’t set hearings on fire.

Hearing or not, his next contract should be intriguing. Would Calgary want to try to find a bargain by handing out a little more term, or would both sides be comfortable with a one or two-year “prove it” type deal?

Will Butcher: The Devils would likely hope that arbitrators use less sophisticated stats (Butcher was a -17 in 2018-19) than the fancy variety, as he was impressive from an analytics standpoint, especially compared to Devils teammates.

With 30 points and a healthy 19:16 TOI average, Butcher is clearly an emerging talent. It might be worth the risk to lock him up for more term than what is normally handed out in hearings where a compromise is the goal, rather than a long-term pact.

There are some other interesting names on this list. How much of the Bruins’ precious cap space will be eaten up by Danton Heinen? What goes to current Ranger Pavel Buchnevich, not to mention former Ranger and Trouba trade element Neal Pionk?

Here’s the full list, with dates:

July 20
Joel Armia
Jordan Binnington
Jason Dickinson
Alex Iafallo
Brock McGinn
Malcolm Subban (signed)

July 21
Andrew Copp

July 22
Zach Aston-Reese
Christian Djoos
Ville Husso
MacKenzie Weegar

July 23
Evan Rodrigues

July 24
Neal Pionk
Oskar Sundqvist

July 25
Connor Carrick
Jacob Trouba

July 26
Colton Sissons

July 27
Sam Bennett
Chase DeLeo

July 28
Mirco Mueller

July 29
Pavel Buchnevich
David Rittich

July 30
Scott Laughton

July 31
J.T. Compher

August 1
Remi Elie
Ryan Lomberg
Chandler Stephenson

August 2
Will Butcher
Charles Hudon
Linus Ullmark

August 3
Danton Heinen
Artturi Lehkonen

August 4
Sheldon Dries
Joel Edmundson
Anton Forsberg
Rocco Grimaldi
Jake McCabe
Rinat Valiev

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Report: Wild’s Haula files for arbitration

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Minnesota Wild forward Erik Haula filed for salary arbitration on Sunday, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo.

In case you’re not seasoned in this phase of the offseason, here’s a reminder: the Wild and Haula could reach an agreement before a hearing takes place. In fact, it’s not that uncommon for agreements to take place mere hours before scheduled discussions.

(As you may also know, it’s generally preferred to avoid the sometimes-arduous, bridge-burning elements of arbitration, too.)

Haula’s earning power is tough to gauge. Here’s how his expiring contract broke down in both 2013-14 and 2014-15: $900K salary at the NHL level, $67,500 in the AHL, $850K performance bonus and $90K signing bonus.

The 24-year-old scored seven goals and 14 points in 72 games with the Wild last season while also generating a goal in two postseason contests. His calling card would likely be the 2014 playoffs, as he scored four goals and seven points in 13 playoff games.

We’ll see if the two sides can hash out an agreement. If not, an arbitrator might need to determine how that production would translate into a contract.

Shea Weber’s arbitrator compared him to Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook

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Even beyond the simple fact that there was such a lack of arbitration hearings this summer, there was some weird feeling that Shea Weber’s hefty one-year, $7.5 million award was special. The staggering dollar amount could make life pretty difficult for the Nashville Predators both in the coming season and over the long run, but it doesn’t seem like too outrageous a sum for the hard-shooting, hard-hitting defenseman.

It might not be totally out of line with his skills, but it’s still a pretty bold sum. It’s pretty natural to wonder how the arbitrator got to that point, which is something that The New York Post’s Larry Brooks unearthed today.

Apparently Michel Picher was the man who ultimately gave Weber that award (it’s possible that Predators fans might curse his name someday). Brooks reports that Picher rejected two names that the Predators used as comparables: underrated Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle and Winnipeg Jets hybrid blueliner Dustin Byfuglien. Instead, Picher only used two Chicago Blackhawks blueliners: Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.

Now, you might be asking: but aren’t Keith and Seabrook actually registering sub-$6 million cap hits? (OK, maybe I was the only one asking that.) Well, Picher apparently factored in signing bonuses as well, focusing on compensation more than cap hits.

Here’s a little bit more from Picher via Brooks.

Would you trade Seabrook for Weber? Anybody would. Would you trade Keith for Weber? Almost anybody would.

“All that I can know is that in the coming season, Mr. Seabrook, who in my view has not achieved to the level of Shea Weber, will receive $7 million,” Picher wrote. “I find Mr. Weber’s position relative to Duncan Keith to be somewhat more problematic, [but] I am satisfied that Shea Weber should be placed slightly below Duncan Keith in the compensation market for the coming season.”

Hence, an elite defenseman is receiving a just reward of $7.5 million by virtue of a decision rendered by Picher that should become a model for any future arbitrator.

Brooks brings up a tough question (at least if you factor in each player’s body of work, not just last season): would you rather have Keith or Weber anchoring your defense? I’d honestly probably need at least a few days/a long walk in an Ilya Bryzgalov-approved park to make such a choice myself.

Anyway, it’s interesting to get a rare glimpse inside the mind of an arbitrator, something Brooks provided today. It’ll be intriguing to see if the Weber decision influences other high-profile cases in the future, which is why teams should follow this summer’s general model by avoiding the process at a all costs.

Canucks forward Jannik Hansen hopes for big raise as arbitration approaches

While 22 players filed for salary arbitration this summer, none have actually had a hearing yet. Ryan Callahan was the most recent of 17 players who avoided the often awkward process, signing a three-year deal worth $12.85 million on Wednesday.

If that trend continues, then there’s no reason to worry about Vancouver Canucks forward Jannik Hansen, whose salary arbitration hearing is scheduled for Friday. It might be different with Hansen, though, as the 25-year-old forward went through the process last year as well. Hansen received a one-year, $825K deal thanks to the 2010 hearing, but the Vancouver Sun indicates that Hansen hopes to at least double that salary after he scored a career-high 29 points and had a solid all-around season in 2010-11.

Arbitration hearings can be contentious and uncomfortable at times, but if a hearing does take place Friday, Canucks assistant GM Laurence Gilman said that he expects it to be a “respectful” process.

Gilman said the Canucks spend countless hours preparing their case and try to present it in a professional way. “With respect to the process itself I think in our tenure here the last couple of years we have demonstrated in the briefs we have written and in the hearings that we have been professional and respectful in the manner in which we’ve presented our cases.”

It’s quite possible that we might hear about a new deal today (or even a short time before the hearing is supposed to take place), but either way, we’ll keep an eye on the process. The arbitrator’s decision might not be revealed until this weekend or early next week, though.

With Dubinsky signed, the Rangers can turn their full attention to Ryan Callahan

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The New York Rangers and Ryan Callahan have an arbitration hearing scheduled this Thursday to determine Callahan’s salary for next season. If the team and player can control the negotiations, there’s no way an arbitrator will ever hear both sides of the argument. The Rangers will negotiate with Callahan and hopefully avoid a hearing just like they were able to do with Brandon Dubinsky as they reached a 4-year deal, $16.8 million deal at the very last minute. Callahan’s agent, Steve Bartlett, acknowledged that there was “a pecking order” and once Dubinsky’s deal was finalized, he and the team would be able to get down to business. Well, the time has come.

The two players have been linked at the hip during their tenure in New York—so it’s no surprise that their contract negotiations should affect one another as well. Blueshirt Banter’s Joe Fortunato notes that Callahan’s deal could be just as much—if not more than Dubinsky’s recent contract:

“The two deals have always expected to be similar. Both players play key roles on the team, although Callahan has the advantage of being the top candidate to be the next captain of the team. Callahan also has another advantage, his numbers last season are comparable to Dubinsky’s (Callahan finished the year with 48 points to Dubinsky’s 54) but Callahan missed 17 more games than Dubinsky did.”

Again, it makes sense that the players who are so often linked on the ice would command similar salaries off the ice. Unfortunately for GM Glen Sather and the Rangers, the contracts and negotiations won’t happen in a vacuum. Circumstances change with each and every deal; and after Dubinsky’s deal worth $4.2 million per season, the Rangers are inching closer to the salary cap. It’s a familiar position on Broadway, but then again, they aren’t usually staring at arbitration with a guy who could be their future captain (as early as next year). Houses of the Hockey explain the financial problems of signing Callahan:

“The problem with signing Callahan to the long-term deal in the range of $4-5 million that he rightfully desires is that the Rangers can afford his salary, but barely. Sather has $5.8 million in cap space, leaving minimal wiggle room throughout the season to possible acquire depth at the trade deadline during a playoff push.”

The importance of both Dubinsky and Callahan to the New York Rangers and their future can’t be overstated. Callahan’s 48 points were tied for 2nd on the team behind Dubinsky. Likewise, Callahan’s 23 goals were also second on the team—also behind Dubinsky. Now just imagine if Callahan was able to avoid the broken leg that prematurely ended his season after only 60 games. But it’s not just obvious points that Callahan brings to the table. He lead the Rangers forwards in shorthanded ice time, power play ice time, power play goals, game winning goals—all while facing the toughest competition over the course of the season.

There’s no way the Rangers want to go to arbitration, risk a one-year contract, and unrestricted free agency next season with a player who has the potential to be their next leader. Callahan brings everything to the table that a team would want—he throws his body around to create energy for his team, scores on the power play, kills penalties, and leads in the locker room. Since Brandon Dubinsky was able to land a 4-year deal worth $4.2 million per season, that’s the starting point for any negotiations from the Callahan camp. It’s tough to separate the two players—but once they are viewed on their individual merits, Callahan is the slightly more valuable player.

If the Rangers can get him in the $4.5 million range, they should happily take the deal and run. Whatever they agree to—it’s a safe bet that they’ll do everything in their power to lock-up the 26-year-old for more than a single season. If the dispute goes to arbitration for some reason, you’ll be able to hear the audible cheer from 29 front offices around the NHL. There’s no way the Rangers would want Callahan hitting the open market as he enters his prime next season. It’s their job to handle their business with Callahan like they did with Dubinsky before the two sides enter an arbitration hearing on Thursday. Like just about every other potential arbitration dispute, the two sides will likely reach a resolution before a third party has to get involved. The only questions for Callahan and the Rangers are: how long and how much?

Let’s throw this one out to the readers: after seeing Brandon Dubinsky get his 4-year contract worth $16.8 million, what do you think Ryan Callahan’s contract will look like?