As the list of the players who have filed for arbitration was released earlier today by the NHLPA, a few names stick out as those due a meaningful raise. Arbitration is a tricky process to reliably predict, but it’s a safe bet these names will see their cap hit rise substantially.
Brian Dumoulin – D – Pittsburgh Penguins
There was a time when the young Dumoulin was a well-kept secret in the league, overshadowed by the far flashier play of Kris Letang. Dumoulin’s accolades this last playoff year certainly didn’t go unnoticed, and as the lone defensive defenseman in their core group, he probably holds the greatest job security on the team’s blueline. He doesn’t put up points – only one goal in the last two seasons, but he blocks shots and drives possession while eating a ton of minutes against top competition. As analytics are utilized more and more, his case only gets stronger. A contract well over $4 MM is certainly looking possible.
Colton Parayko – D – St. Louis Blues
This is the name seen most commonly associated with offer-sheets this summer, and with good reason. Parayko plays with the mentality of an old-time defenseman, but he can skate quite well for a large (6’6) man. He’s only had two seasons in the NHL, but he’s impressed since he first took the ice. Again, he isn’t a massive offensive force (he scored 3 goals last season), but he’s already averaging over 21 minutes a night with near equal starts in both the offensive and defensive zone. He’ll be hurt by the quantifiable stats factor, but he’s a big body with a rare right-handed shot to boot. This contract could look relatively cheap compared to his next, if he continues along this course. He should cost around $5.5 MM.
Ondrej Palat – F – Tampa Bay Lightning
Others will look to the undersized center Tyler Johnson as most likely to get a payday. But don’t over look Palat’s consistency – it may give him an edge with arbiters. Johnson does have his 72 point campaign to lean on, but that was now two full seasons ago. The fact that both players couldn’t break 20 goals in the last two seasons will bring their prices back down to Earth. Palat has grown into his role on the team and back-checks with a ferocity not often seen in younger stars. Johnson is no slouch either – they’ve both accumulated Selke votes over the years. These are two pivotal pieces of the Lightning, and their upcoming contracts were a big reason Jonathan Drouin was traded away to Montreal. GM Steve Yzerman will happily lock both up, but he will be hoping for figures under the $6 MM mark.
Viktor Arvidsson – F – Nashville Predators
This would have been an unlikely name on such a list even last December, when you consider how truly meteoric Arvidsson’s rise was. His value in arbitration will be deeply interesting – the shifty winger has played himself into the core of the team within a season. He really only has 2016-17 and the long playoff run to hang his hat on, as he scored only 16 points through 56 games in 2015-16. This year was a remarkable offensive explosion, with 30 goals and 31 assists. At only 5’9, Arvidsson has really shocked many onlookers by how easily he’s adapted to the physicality of the NHL game. His talent has never been in question, and with his production now well-established, it’s safe to believe he’s going to get a cushy award. How bad the damage will be is going to affect Nashville’s cap going forward – I suspect over $5 MM, but there are few comparables.
Mikael Granlund – F – Minnesota Wild
Granlund is perhaps slightly more enticing league wide than fellow Wild RFA Nino Niederreiter. He’s a marginally more cerebral player, and he plays the valuable center position. Neiderreiter is the more natural goal-scorer and larger frame, but Granlund has better PPG and has broken 30 assists thrice. Both players will get paid, as they both broke 25 goals last season and will be important pieces in the State of Hockey for some time. I think the more interesting thing to watch here is whether the Wild play it safe with Granlund and take a one year deal, or attempt to lock him up for longer. This was the first season he really scored with any consistency, but the Wild have shown their faith in the player by continually giving him over 17 minutes of icetime even when he struggled to produce. A one-year would easily command over $5 MM, whereas a longer deal could bring cost down.