salary arbitration

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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.

Predators, Shea Weber gear up for possible salary arbitration on Tuesday

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If Shea Weber and the Nashville Predators follow this summer’s pattern – a pattern that even maintained itself with similarly high wattage star Zach Parise – then they’re just going through the negotiating motions right now. The only case that actually went to arbitration was Chris Campoli’s, which really doesn’t count all that much since the Chicago Blackhawks were prepared to walk away from his award regardless of the amount.

That being said, today marked a rather important day in the process for Weber and the Predators. The Tennessean’s Josh Cooper reminds us that both sides are required to provide written briefs 48 hours before a scheduled arbitration hearing, which means that the Predators and Weber’s representatives must have done so this morning.

So, what does Weber’s side think and how much will the Predators argue for? Dirk Hoag of On the Forecheck provided a hearty analysis of the restricted free agent comparables* for Weber, pointing specifically to where Dion Phaneuf ranked in the minds of many hockey people way back before he became so expensive that the Calgary Flames had to trade him. (Predators fans must hope that the comparisons will stop there, though.) Hoag thinks that the Predators might offer Weber $6.5 million per year.

When balancing out this list of comparables, I could see the Predators coming in at a figure of $6.5 million annually. While there are some aspects of Phaneuf’s performance that were superior to Weber’s during the years leading up to his current contract, Weber does benefit from additional factors such as his being named team captain last summer, and his growing star power around the league due to his performance at the 2010 Olympics and at the World Championships.

On the other hand, the fact remains that while he has been among the top defensemen in a number of areas, he has yet to take the top spot, which argues for keeping him below what Stamkos just received.

source: APPerhaps Weber’s side will fall on the higher side of many peoples’ estimates by asking for $7.5 million, then?

Buddy Oakes thinks that both parties will make a near-last minute deal with an average between $7 million and $7.25 million per year for four or five years, which seems like a reasonable compromise for both sides. Weber would get paid handsomely (but not outrageously) while still setting himself up for one more big in-his-prime deal when it would expire. The Predators would lock up the face of their franchise for a few of his unrestricted years.

It’s important to note a point we’ve been hammering on quite a bit lately: it’s not just about keeping Weber in the fold. The Predators are a budget team with three potential budget-busting players set for near-future paydays: Weber, fellow defensive stud Ryan Suter and Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne. Suter and Rinne would qualify for unrestricted free agency if the Predators don’t sign them before July 2012. Those two won’t be easy to sign if they keep Weber, but re-signing the team’s renowned defenseman would be a clear sign to the rest of the “Big Three” that they intend to be a genuine contender going forward. (Click here for a roundtable discussion regarding which of the “Big Three” might be most expendable.)

Now that you’ve read a few guesses on what Weber and the Predators think he might be worth, how do you feel? Should he just sign a one or two-year deal and make Nashville prove that they can compete? Should he take less money and more years to help the team build a stronger squad? Is he worth $6.5 million-$7.5 million or perhaps more? Let us know in the comments.

* – Want more comparisons that might put Weber’s value (and the tough negotiations) in further context? Jeremy Gover also provided his own breakdown at Section 303.

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.