The collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and NHL Players’ Association is flawed in any number of ways, but one thing it gets right is the salary arbitration process it uses to deal with restricted free agents who are out of the entry-level years of their contracts.
The best thing about the process is that it imposes a deal and has players in training camp and under contract during a vital point in their career developments. By its very nature, it also forces both sides to be reasonable in their demands and imposes a deal that is fair to all parties. And even though the process rarely goes the distance, it forces both sides to negotiate a deal.
But it’s not without its flaws, either. Because it is very statistics-based, it’s not a good fit for some players. Take Tom Wilson of the Washington Capitals, for example. He’s a valuable player to the team and brings a lot to the game that can’t be measured statistically. Which means he doesn’t have a very good arbitration case, so he likely won’t file.
But here are 10 players who probably will before the Thursday 5 p.m. deadline. And if the Capitals can’t come to a deal with Wilson, they can always file themselves by 5 p.m. Friday:
1. Matt Dumba, D, Minnesota: Dumba might have the best arbitration case of anyone who is eligible this year. He had the most points (49) and the highest ice time (23:51 per game) among arbitration eligible defensemen. His production has increased each season he has been in the NHL. If he goes, the Wild can request a two-year deal.
2. Mark Stone, RW, Ottawa: Despite making $4.5 million last season, Stone is due a big raise from the Senators. He’s one of the better two-way players in the league and his body of work over the past couple of seasons suggests that his level of play is going to continue to be high for the next couple of seasons. Since Stone will be a UFA next summer, the Senators can request only a one-year deal.
3. William Karlsson, C, Vegas: A 53-point jump in productions suggests Karlsson would have an excellent case in arbitration. But Vegas will argue that he has only done it for one year and prior to getting an opportunity with the Golden Knights, he was a third- or fourth-liner. They’ll also point out its unlikely he’ll duplicate his 23.4 shooting percentage.
4. Kevin Hayes, C, N.Y. Rangers: Another player who has been consistently productive through his career, Hayes broke the 20-goal barrier last season and he figures to be a huge part of the Rangers’ rebuilding program. The Rangers can opt only for a one-year deal if he files.
5. Jason Zucker, RW, Minnesota: Of all the players who are among this year’s arbitration-eligible crop, only William Karlsson scored more goals and points than Zucker did. (Mark Stone equaled his 62 points.) Playing with Eric Staal on the top line, Zucker established career highs in virtually every offensive category. Another player whose arbitration award can only be one year.
6. Jacob Trouba, D, Winnipeg: From a player who asked for a trade because he felt he wasn’t getting enough opportunity to a right-shot minute muncher than any team in the league would love to have, Trouba has watched his value skyrocket in the last season. His big stat is minutes. His case will be hurt by a lack of offensive production.
7. Connor Hellebuyck, G, Winnipeg: Hellebuyck tied Andrei Vasilevskiy in wins with 44 this past season and was the choice of seven GMs for the Vezina Trophy, a race in which he finished second to Pekka Rinne. He was also a workhorse for the Jets, finishing tied with Cam Talbot for the most appearances with 67.
8. Colin Miller, D, Vegas: Only Dumba had more goals and points among arbitration-eligible defensemen than Miller did this past season, but Miller averaged 4 ½ minutes less in ice time per game than Dumba did. At $1.1 million, he was second lowest paid among prominent arbitration-eligible players. Only his teammate William Karlsson received less.
9. Elias Lindholm, RW, Calgary: If the Flames were to try to discount Lindholm’s value, he could argue that the team must like him or it would not have traded for him. The Flames can opt for a two-year deal, then they’d have to really pay if he ends up playing with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan and puts up huge numbers.
10. Ryan Spooner, RW, N.Y. Rangers: You could argue that nobody accomplished more with less than Spooner did this past season. Even though his ice time increased to almost 17 minutes a game once he was dealt to the Rangers at the deadline, he scored 41 points despite averaging just 14:26 in ice time. He’s another player who could only receive a one-year award.
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