In the NHL, the salary arbitration process is more often used as a negotiating tool – an incentive to get a deal done before the uncomfortable setting of a hearing and the unknown of an arbitrator’s decision – than it is for its actual purpose. A vast majority of players who file for arbitration end up settling before their hearing or even at the last moment before an award is handed down. Last year, 44 players filed for arbitration and 40 settled prior to their hearing. The year before, all 30 cases were resolved before an arbitration award could be made.
So what about this year? There were initially 40 cases of player-elected arbitration and one case of team-elected arbitration (the St. Louis Blues and goalie Ville Husso), but that number is now down to 25 open cases. That’s a substantial drop-off, but time is running out for some RFA’s and their teams to come to terms, as the first scheduled hearing is set to take place on Saturday, July 20th. Listed below are all of the remaining cases:
July 20: Brock McGinn, Carolina Hurricanes
July 21: Andrew Copp, Winnipeg Jets
July 22: MacKenzie Weegar, Florida Panthers; Zach Aston-Reese, Pittsburgh Penguins; Ville Husso, St. Louis Blues; Christian Djoos, Washington Capitals
July 23: Evan Rodrigues, Buffalo Sabres
July 24: Oskar Sundqvist, St. Louis Blues; Neal Pionk, Winnipeg Jets
July 25: Jacob Trouba, New York Rangers
July 26: Colton Sissons, Nashville Predators
July 27: Sam Bennett, Calgary Flames
July 28: Mirco Mueller, New Jersey Devils
July 29: David Rittich, Calgary Flames; Pavel Buchnevich, New York Rangers
August 1: Remi Elie, Buffalo Sabres; Chandler Stephenson, Washington Capitals
August 2: Linus Ullmark, Buffalo Sabres; Charles Hudon, Montreal Canadiens; Will Butcher, New Jersey Devils
August 4: Jake McCabe, Buffalo Sabres; Anton Forsberg, Carolina Hurricanes; Sheldon Dries, Colorado Avalanche; Rocco Grimaldi, Nashville Predators; Joel Edmundson, St. Louis Blues
Given the time constraints and the complexity of each of these cases, how many will feel forced to go to hearing? Will Trouba be one of that select group, as he was last year? Will the Sabres struggle to settle four cases before their scheduled hearing dates? Will the Blues see through their team-elected case with Husso? Will other goalies prove to be difficult negotiations? And will polarizing players like Bennett and Buchnevich fail to find common ground with their teams? Or will it be under-the-radar players like Gemel Smith and Brett Kulak last year who go through the full process?
There are many questions left about this group of restricted free agents and time is running out before we know the answers. So the choice is yours: will we see an unprecedented class of arbitration awards or will all or most cases reach a resolution in the coming weeks?
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