Salary Arbitration – A Necessary Evil In The NHL


It is a process that nobody ever really wants to go through.  Sitting in a room in front of an arbitrator with the player’s side arguing comparables and stats on why he deserves what he is asking for.  The team side countering with why the player is not worth what they are asking for.

March 26, 2013; Raleigh, NC, USA; Winnipeg Jets right wing Blake Wheeler (26) carries the puck against the Carolina Hurricanes at the PNC center. The Jets defeated the Hurricanes 4-1. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The process of salary arbitration is a difficult one, especially for the players who file, because they have to sit there an listen while their boss outlines their shortcomings and areas where they are not up to par.

This is why only 21 players who were eligible for salary arbitration filed for the process, and why 18 of them have already concluded negotiations and agreed on a contract before the hearing takes place.  From Erik Condra‘s 2 year deal on July 12th to Blake Wheeler‘s 6 year, $33.6M deal on Friday with the Jets, players would rather get the contract settled before the messy procedure of salary arbitration actually started.

It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the three players with hearings still scheduled next week – Mark Frasor of the Maple Leafs, Mats Zucarrello of the Rangers and the Jets’ Zach Bogosian – all found a way to reach an agreement for a contract extension before the hearing begins.

The process is necessary to set a deadline for a contract to be signed. It sets a date that both sides have that they know a deal will get done, and the two antagonists know how much time they have to work out a deal or put the negotiations in the hands of an arbitrator.  Whether the team wants to or not, they must degrade their own player, to get the beneficial ruling.

The drop dead date serves as a great finish line, and that is why most negotiations get wrapped up before they have to reach that point.