Hockey fans have already been treated to the Entry Draft, the start of free agency and numerous trades since the Tampa Bay Lightning were crowned Stanley Cup champion a few weeks ago and Salary Arbitration is now on deck.
Salary Arbitration is for restricted free agents who qualify as a way to settle Contract offers and disputes. The hockey club and player each propose an expected salary amount for an upcoming season and argue their cases before a third-party arbitrator. The arbitrator then decides which contract offer is the fairest and both parties then abide to it. However, the team or player can simply walk away from the decision of they choose.
The current arbitration system was introduced following the 1994/95 NHL lockout and is covered by the collective bargaining agreement agreed to by the NHL Players’ Association and the league. Restricted free agency is ruled by a combination of a player’s age when being signed to their first professional contract as well as their amount of experience in any of the world’s pro hockey leagues.
Those who ink their first contracts from the age of 18 to 21 will be restricted free agents following their first three seasons of pro experience. Players who first signed at 22 or 23 become restricted free agents with two years of pro experience and if signing your first pro deal at the age of 24 or older you qualify as a restricted free agent following the first year of experience.
There are one, two and three-year standard entry-level contracts which all players entering the NHL must sign if they’re under the age of 25. The length of the contract depends on their age with shorter deals for older players. Typically, a drafted player signs a three-year entry-level contract and becomes a restricted free agent when it expires.
When the contract is over their NHL club has to give them a qualifying offer for a new one-year deal after the Entry Draft. This enables the team to retain negotiating rights with the player. If a team doesn’t send a qualifying offer then the player is eligible for unrestricted free agency. Depending on the player’s previous salary, qualifying offers must include a raise of five or 10 per cent unless they were making over $1 million a season. In this case, the qualifying offer has to be at least equal to the previous salary.
A player has the right to decline a qualifying offer and remain a restricted free agent. Those who turn the offer down can negotiate a new contract with the club but won’t be able to play in the NHL if they haven’t agreed to terms by a specific date, which is generally December 1st. Restricted free agents are eligible to speak with other NHL clubs and allowed to sign an offer sheet with a team if one is received. If an offer sheet is signed, his club has the right to match it within seven days but isn’t allowed to trade him or negotiate a contract during this time.
If the offer sheet is matched and the player stays, his team isn’t allowed to trade him for a year. If an offer sheet isn’t matched, the team that signs the player must give up draft picks as compensation. The exact draft picks and the number of them are determined by the average annual dollar-size of the contract over five years. The more the contract is worth the more draft picks have to be given up. Restricted free agents can also sit out the season if they don’t sign. .
Restricted free agents who have played in the NHL for a minimum of four years or signed their first professional contract at 20 years of age or older are eligible to request salary arbitration. The player’s club also has the right to request arbitration. If the ruling favours the player and the player requested arbitration, the team must decide within 48 hours if it wants to pay the salary or let the player qualify for unrestricted free agency by walking away from the deal. If the team requested arbitration they can’t walk away and have to abide by the arbitrator’s decision.
The most common evidence used in hearings includes a player’s statistics, overall performance, games played, injuries, illnesses, length of service in the league and with the club and their leadership qualities. In addition, the player’s salary is often compared to that of players in the league with similar statistics etc.
The NHL and Major League Baseball are the only two major North American sports to use the arbitration system. This year’s arbitration hearings are scheduled to be held between Oct. 21st and Nov. 8th with 26 players restricted free agents having filed.
Defenceman Matt Grzelcyk of the Boston Bruins was scheduled for a hearing on Oct. 20 but agreed to a four-year deal with the club worth a total of $14.75 million on Oct. 17.Other players who signed before their hearings were goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen with Minnesota, blue liner Ryan Graves with Colorado, forward Nick Paul with Ottawa, netminder Alexandar Georgiev with the New York Rangers, forward , Clark Bishop with Carolina and forward Andrew Mangiapane with Calgary.
The remaining players scheduled for salary arbitration are:
Buffalo Sabres: Victor Olofsson, F; Sam Reinhart, F; Linus Ullmark, G
Carolina Hurricanes: Haydn Fleury, D; Warren Foegele, F; Gustav Forsling, D
Colorado Avalanche: Devon Toews, D
Detroit Red Wings: Tyler Bertuzzi, F
Florida Panthers: MacKenzie Weegar, D
New York Islanders: Joshua Ho-Sang, F; Ryan Pulock, D
New York Rangers: Brendan Lemieux, F; Ryan Strome, F
Ottawa Senators: Connor Brown, F; Christian Jaros, D; Nick Paul, F; Chris Tierney , F
Toronto Maple Leafs; Ilya Mikheyev, F
Vancouver Canucks: Jake Virtanen, F
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