It’s been a rough few weeks for NHL arbitrators. While 25 contract cases had been scheduled for hearings, only Tyson Barrie made it to a hearing, and that was resolved before a ruling was issued, meaning the league’s arbitrators didn’t get to render a single decision. And all that comes on the heels of news that James Oldham, the neutral arbitrator who ruled on the Dennis Wideman case, had been dismissed by the league.
But during these dark days for the league’s proud arbitrating fraternity, it’s worth remembering that times weren’t always so tough. The NHL has a long history of arbitrators making headlines, on cases involving everything from contract signings to disputed trades and beyond.
Here’s a look back on five times in NHL history that an arbitrator got the chance to bask in the spotlight.
If the Colorado Avalanche and defenseman Tyson Barrie don’t come to an agreement on a contract before Sunday 3 p.m., Barrie will represent the only one of 25 players in the arbitration process this summer whose case actually went the distance.
A total of 24 players, including Barrie, filed for arbitration, while the Detroit Red Wings took goalie Petr Mrazek to arbitration. The 24 other cases all ended in a contract resolution, the last of which was Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Martin Marincin, who was scheduled to have his hearing Monday. Marincin, however, signed a two-year deal with the Maple Leafs on Friday worth $1.25 million per season.
It should really come as no surprise that of the 25 players who were slated to go to salary arbitration this summer, none has actually sat in front of the arbitrator and 22 of them have resulted in contract resolutions. That’s pretty much the standard these days.
And it should also come as no surprise if the remaining three are resolved well in advance of their hearings. Well, except Tyson Barrie of the Colorado Avalanche, largely because we have no idea what Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy are thinking these days. He actually might end up going. He’s slated for Thursday. (Martin Marincin of the Toronto Maple Leafs is scheduled for Aug. 2 and Michael Stone of the Arizona Coyotes is on the docket for Aug. 4.)
When the NHL announced last fall its seven-year partnership that will see adidas become its official outfitter starting next season, your trusty correspondent asked commissioner Gary Bettman whether the deal would be extended by a year if there were another labor dispute. Bettman responded with a one-word answer.
“Really?” Bettman asked, with a good amount of offense and incredulity. Well, about as much offense and incredulity as someone who has shut down the game three times in the past 20 years could muster.
Any smug prognosticator convinced Las Vegas’ NHL franchise will be a laughing stock has a head start. It’s an expansion team, after all, and recent NHL history tells us brand-new franchises normally fall flat on their faces.
The San Jose Sharks joined the NHL 25 years ago and won a combined 28 games in their first two seasons. The Ottawa Senators arrived a year later and won 24 games over their first two years. The Tampa Bay Lightning, Anaheim Ducks, Atlanta Thrashers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators… each of those franchises wobbled out of the womb like a baby calf. The 1993-94 Florida Panthers set the gold standard of modern expansion club respectability, and even they didn’t finish .500, going 33-34-17. None of those teams made the post-season in its first two tries.
It thus stands to reason Vegas, a market already inviting some skepticism of its ability to fill an NHL arena long term, is in trouble. History suggests teams take years to build their youth crop and field competitive clubs. If the Vegas fan base is as fickle as some perceive it to be, that’s a deadly combination of lack of winning and lack of interest.
But Vegas has something going for it no franchise has before upon its inception: the salary cap. Vegas is the cap era’s first expansion team, and it will have advantages every other new NHL franchise has lacked.
The NHLPA released the list of players who have elected to take their teams to arbitration this summer and it’s a pretty impressive assortment of talent. And though many of these contract negotiations end up coming to a close before the actual hearing begins, there are some very interesting cases here. Check out the list:
The question when it comes to the trade between the Chicago Blackhawks and Carolina Hurricanes is not which team won the transaction. We already know that. The more pressing question, one that will only be answered in the coming years, is just how badly did the Hurricanes fleece the Blackhawks?
And the reason why is pretty damned depressing. It’s because the salary cap punishes teams that develop good, young players and spends money to perpetuate a winning culture and rewards those who muddle around in mediocrity and do it on the cheap. The deal that sent Teuvo Teravainen and Bryan Bickell (and his $4 million cap hit) to the Hurricanes for a second-round pick in 2016 and a third-rounder in 2017 represents everything that is wrong with the salary cap.
If Pavel Datsyuk were to go back home to play in the KHL next season and turn his back on the last year of his contract with the Detroit Red Wings, it would leave an enormous leadership and talent void on the roster. But it might not be the end of the world for them.
In fact, if things work out they way they potentially could, it could be a boon for the Red Wings. If Datsyuk were to let the Red Wings know of his intentions early enough, it would open up some valuable cap space and allow them to go after the biggest free agent in the pool, Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman announced Saturday that Stamkos has a blood clot and faces a recovery period of one-to-three months, meaning there is a chance the pending unrestricted free agent has played his last game for the Lightning. It is expected, however, that Stamkos will make a full recovery.