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Rand Simon's Blog: Explaining qualifying offers and arbitration rights

The Devils' David Clarkson was signed as an undrafted free agent when he was 21, so he has arbitration rights this summer. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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The Devils' David Clarkson was signed as an undrafted free agent when he was 21, so he has arbitration rights this summer. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The summer 2008 negotiating season is officially underway as NHL teams have started to submit qualifying offers to their Group 2 free agents.

As per the collective bargaining agreement, in order to protect its right to match an offer sheet and receive draft pick compensation if choosing not to match, an NHL team must tender a qualifying offer no later than June 25.

In order to be deemed proper, the qualifying offer must be for an amount at least equal to the player’s 2007-08 compensation for those who made $1 million or more this past season in base salary.

For players making less than $1 million but more than $660,000, the qualifying offer must be for 105 percent of the player’s ‘07-08 salary. However, the qualifying offer does not have to exceed $1 million if, for example, the player was making $990,000 in ‘07-08. That player’s qualifying offer would be $1 million.

Finally, for players making less than $660,000, the qualifying offer must incorporate a 10 percent raise on the player’s ‘07-08 salary.

Qualifying offers can either be one-way (same salary whether the player is in the NHL or minors) or two-way (higher salary in the NHL than in the minors) depending on each player’s circumstances.

Players with at least 180 career NHL games (including at least 60 this season) who did not clear waivers in ‘07-08 must be qualified on a one-way basis. All other players can receive a two-way qualifying offer, including veteran players who were injured this season and did not meet the 60-game threshold.

Group 2 players who do not receive qualifying offers on June 25 immediately become unrestricted free agents and every year there are a few players who fall into this category.

The next key date for Group 2 free agents on the Critical Date Calendar is July 1. That is the first day Group 2 players can sign contracts and is also the first day teams can submit offer sheets.

Just four days later, July 5, is the deadline for Group 2 players to file for salary arbitration. Of course, not all Group 2 free agents have salary arbitration rights and there is no simple way to know if a player has arbitration rights or not, but the following two scenarios encompass the vast majority of players who will have that right:

1) Players who have four years or more of professional experience under NHL contract. (The exception to this rule is for players who started their pro careers in the 2004-05 lockout season, as that year does not count for determining salary arbitration eligibility).

2) Players whose age at signing their first NHL contract plus their number of years of pro experience under NHL contract adds up to 24 or more. For example, David Clarkson signed with the New Jersey Devils as an overage junior at age 21 and has been under NHL contract for three years, so he has arbitration rights. David Backes of the St. Louis Blues also has salary arbitration rights even though he has been a pro for only two seasons because he was 22 years old at signing.

After players make their decision whether or not to file for salary arbitration, NHL teams can file on anyone eligible who did not elect on July 6. Teams will take a player to salary arbitration to ensure he will be signed for the start of the season and to prevent another team from submitting an offer sheet.

For players who did not have arbitration rights and for those who did not file, their qualifying offer expires on July 15. As a result, you often hear of several signings right around that time.

Salary arbitration is scheduled to run from July 21 to Aug. 4 but depending on the number of cases, the hearings will likely wind up on Aug. 1.

If the past couple of years are any indication, virtually all Group 2 players will be signed once all the arbitration cases have been heard. Under the previous CBA, in most years there were several players (often stars) who remained unsigned going into training camp or even into the season, but that rarely happens anymore.

WORKING HARD FOR THEIR MONEY

Interesting article by Eric Duhatschek recently regarding the state of goaltending in the NHL:  Eric explored the topic of whether or not goaltenders today are overworked and the impact that has on their playoff performance.

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The article got me wondering whether or not some No. 1 goaltenders are playing more games than ever before and thanks to the power play feature at Hockey-Reference.com we can find out the answer.

Turns out the 2007-08 season was an historic one for goaltenders carrying a very heavy workload. There were four netminders this past season that played in at least 75 games (Evgeni Nabokov, Martin Brodeur, Miikka Kiprusoff and Ryan Miller), marking the first time in NHL history that many goaltenders reached that level.

In fact, all four of them played at least 76 games, a number which had been reached only four times previously in history. Furthermore, six of the eight 76-plus game seasons in NHL history have been in the past two years.

Thanks to Hockey-Reference.com, here are a few other statistical oddities from the 2007-08 season:

·    Jeremy Roenick became the first player ever to score at least 10 game-winning goals in a season while scoring fewer than 20 goals overall. Roenick, who scored a total of 14 goals, blew away the previous record held by Guy Carbonneau, who scored 10 game-winners in a 26-goal season in 1988-89.

·    There was a great race for the NHL’s version of the Cy Young Award with Brad Boyes (43-22), Johan Franzen (27-11) and Marek Svatos (26-11) all staking claim to the award. Boyes became just the second player in 15 seasons to top 40 goals while dishing out fewer than 25 helpers while Franzen and Svatos were the first players in eight seasons to score 25 or more goals and record fewer than 12 assists.

·    Alex Ovechkin’s remarkable season saw him take a phenomenal 446 shots on goal, the second-highest total in NHL history. But even if Ovie had taken 100 more shots, he still would be second all-time to Phil Esposito’s 550 figure from the 1970-71 season.

·    Mike Ribeiro became the first player since Cam Neely in 1993-94 to score more than 25 goals and have a better than 25 percent shooting percentage.

·    It was a great year for young players as three skaters 19 and under during the regular season – Patrick Kane, Peter Mueller and Jonathan Toews – scored more than 50 points this season. That hasn’t happened since 1991-92 when Pat Falloon, Owen Nolan and Jaromir Jagr turned the trick.

·    Continuing with that theme, 2007-08 saw three defensemen 22 and younger score at least 15 goals for the first time in nearly 20 years. Mike Green, Dion Phaneuf and Brent Burns became the first trio to accomplish the feat since six defensemen did it in 1988-89. As for Phaneuf, he already has three 15-goal seasons on his resume by 22. The only other defensemen in NHL history who can say that are Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, Denis Potvin, Paul Coffey and Phil Housley.

LEAFS NOT THAT BAD

While bashing the Toronto Maple Leafs seems to be the new national pastime (well, maybe it’s not so new), the reality is the team was very competitive in 2007-08 and just missed making the playoffs – if you only count games in which Vesa Toskala played.

Toskala went 33-25-6 this season, a 92-point pace over an 82-game season. That’s just three fewer points than the 95 earned by a Philadelphia Flyers’ team that finished 6th in the Eastern Conference and is still playing.

Not that I am putting all the blame on the Leafs’ missing the playoffs by 11 points on their backup goaltending, but the reality is the Leafs went 3-10-5 in the games in which Toskala did not get a decision. No team had a worse winning percentage from their non-No. 1 goaltender than the Leafs did and if they can improve upon that figure to something in the .500 range (or play Toskala in more games), making the playoffs in 2008-09 is not the unrealistic goal most would have you believe.

Rand Simon is an NHLPA certified agent. He has spent the past 15 years with Newport Sports Management Inc. He will be blogging for THN.com throughout the season. You can read his other entries HERE.

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