The NHL arbitration process is really no fun for anyone involved, since it brings negotiation into a formal setting and forces teams and their players to square off. Teams have to pretend that their own players aren’t really that good and hurt feelings can have long-standing consequences.
Which is why most arbitration cases get settled before the actual hearing. In fact, the Washington Capitals and goaltender Braden Holtby are already saying all the right things and trying to get something done beforehand. So there might not actually be much arbitration to hear about this summer, but there are some interesting scenarios nonetheless. Here’s a look at five high-profile cases:
The same day Connor McDavid wore his Edmonton Oiler colors for the first time ever on the ice, his bosses were upstairs going about the process of giving him some legitimate NHL players to surround him.
It’s difficult, nay impossible, to declare the winners and losers of a free agent frenzy day before Canada Day has even included, but it’s difficult to not get excited about what’s going on in western Canada these days. The oil patch has been sucked dry of good hockey for so long that sometimes it looked as though neither the Oilers nor the Calgary Flames were ever going to get it right.
It’s safe to say things turned out probably better than both Brad Richards and the Chicago Blackhawks could have imagined last season and the Detroit Red Wings are banking on a repeat performance, both for Richards and the team.
Richards, who was thought to be on his last stop when he signed for just $2 million with the Blackhawks last summer, earned himself at least a $1 million dollar raise on his new deal, a deal that will escalate to a total of $4 million if the Red Wings advance to the Eastern Conference final in 2015-16. If that happens, that is a total the Red Wings will only be too happy to have to pay.
The biggest free agent fish of 2015 has been caught. Defenseman Mike Green is a Detroit Red Wing. He has signed for three years and $18 million, good for a salary cap hit of $6 million.
Green was as coveted as any unrestricted free agent league-wide. He is nowhere near finished as an effective NHL defenseman. Gone are his halcyon days of 30-goal, 70-point seasons, but he remains a well-above-average point producer, having racked up 45 in 72 games this season with Washington. He’s still just 29 and capable of playing 20-plus minutes a night.
Green, however, remains an adventure defensively. He wound up fifth on the Capitals’ depth chart at defense last season. His puck-possession numbers improved under coach Barry Trotz but, as the Washington Post’s Neil Greenberg notes, that was largely because Green was playing on the third pair and facing weaker competition. And it’s alarming that his 72 games in 2014-15 marked his highest total since 2009-10.
The CHL’s Import Draft was held today, giving every major junior team on the continent a chance to pick up some prime European talent. Franchises are allowed to play two Euros on their roster, but no goaltenders. Teams that have a European player taken in the first round of the NHL can select a third player’s rights as well, in case the first-rounder ends up leaving.
With that out of the way, let’s look at how things went down. Consider this a non-comprehensive list, as I am cobbling together commitments or denials as I receive them from various sources in the industry.
The Anaheim Ducks’ efforts to re-sign pending UFA winger Matt Beleskey ended in failure. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports the 27-year-old rejected the club’s best offer and is headed to unrestricted free agency on July first.
Murray told media members at Tuesday’s GM meetings: “We made a really fair offer. God bless him.”
Beleskey is coming off a career-best 22-goal season, along with eight goals in 16 playoff games. He’s completing a two-year deal worth an annual cap hit of $1.35 million. Given the lack of depth in this summer’s UFA pool, Beleskey could command more than $4-million annually on the open market.
It’s possible the Ducks could shop Beleskey’s rights before the July 1 free-agent deadline. If so, the Ducks could get a conditional draft pick if the winger signs with the team his rights were dealt to. It’s not much, but it will be better for the Ducks than losing him for nothing.
KESSEL TO…THE PENGUINS?
Hearing word that the Pittsburgh Penguins were among the preferred trade destinations of Toronto Maple Leafs right winger Phil Kessel raised some eyebrows in Pittsburgh. Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review believes acquiring Kessel is something the Penguins should consider, though he acknowledges there are significant issues working against such a move.
For years, the Detroit Red Wings had based much of their success on their ability to find late-round gems, almost always from Russia or Sweden. But that paradigm is shifting. The Wings’ top prospects are Canadians and Americans, and two of them – Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin – were first-round picks. That’s not to say the Wings have lost their magic in the late rounds. Finland’s Teemu Pulkkinen was drafted 111th overall in 2010 and defenseman Alexey Marchenko was taken 205th overall in 2011. Center Axel Holmstrom is now considered a steal, going in the 196th spot in 2014.
While the Chicago Blackhawks celebrate their latest Stanley Cup championship, GM Stan Bowman will begin the difficult task of determining which of his players become salary-cap casualties. The Blackhawks have more than $64 million invested in cap payroll for 2015-16. They must re-sign restricted free agents Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger, as well as find space to re-sign or replace their unrestricted free agents.
This isn’t the first time Bowman’s faced this problem. Following the Blackhawks 2010 championship, he shipped out several salaried players to become cap compliant for the following season. While he doesn’t have to trade as many this time, he’ll still have to make the difficult choice of determining who must move.