Welcome To Winnipeg: Land of Waiver Wire Pickups and….Arbitration?


The summer of fun continues. Today the news broke that restricted free agents Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, Zach Bogosian, Paul Postma and Eric Tangradi have all filed for arbitration, and I’m not very happy about it.

Now let me clarify. I have no problem with the dollar value that will likely come out of this. Luckily enough, outside of Blake Wheeler not many of these guys have the basic stats or largely compelling arguments needed to put a case forward in order to obtain big payouts. In fact short term, this is probably a good thing for the Jets.

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But wait. Aren’t we all supposed to be buying into the “five year plan” right now? I thought everything Kevin Cheveldayoff and company have been doing was supposed to be a master plan for this team to win in the future? Because letting this happen really does not fit into that plan.

Let me explain. The maximum term that an arbitrator can award to a player/team is two years. That means that unless the Jets can manage to sign these players to contracts before the hearings begin, every player who is awarded a contract will become an unrestricted free agent in two years. Being seemingly unable to lock up major pieces such as Wheeler, Little, and Bogosian long term really does not seem like a path to a successful long term plan to me. Especially when you consider the fact that we just watched a developing 21 year old forward walk away to the KHL.

Maybe I’m being pessimistic. It’s possible that things will be all right. The arbitrator could award a fair deal for both sides, Chevy can continue to negotiate, and extensions could be signed before the two year deals are completed. Then again, arbitration hearings are not known to be the best place for “relationship building”. While each player will provide their case for more money, the Jets must enter the room prepared to list off every reason as to why they feel each player doesn’t deserve as much money.

Imagine. You walk into a meeting with your boss and explain every reason why you feel you deserve a raise. What do you get in return? A list of reasons as to why you aren’t good enough. Sounds like a great plan for a city that already has trouble attracting free agents doesn’t it?

Now I’m not trying to say that the Jets should hand out whatever amount of money every player wants. I am fully aware of the financial situation around this team, and that spending to the cap every year is no way for the team to remain profitable. The fact of the matter is, at some point you need to show your players that you want them around and that they can be rewarded. If players like Bogosian, who have been openly referred to as pillars for the future of franchise, can’t peacefully agree to on a contract, who can? The fact that Kevin Cheveldayoff was unable to come to terms with even one of these players, if for nothing more than a message to the rest of them, is unacceptable.

There are only 21 players in the league who filed for arbitration this season and 5 of them belong to the Winnipeg Jets. Factor in that one RFA has already walked away from the team, no free agent has signed here, nor have any been rumored to be interested in signing here and you have what looks like a pretty serious problem developing. I can’t help but imagine that this is not exactly what Jets fans were hoping for this offseason. Especially from what has been referred to as “Chevy’s defining summer” with the franchise.

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  • Kevin McCartney

    Just a thought here: suppose a team & a player are relatively close to an agreement, but are out on some key piece (years, actual payment per year vs. average annual cost, etc.). If I’m a player, what token of faith can I give the team to show them that I’m focused on getting a deal done with them, rather than just scrabbling after the bigger payoff?

    I apply for arbitration.

    Why? Because, until the arbitration is awarded, I am prohibited from accepting an offer sheet, and the other 29 teams are prohibited from offering one. The only deal that can be made is with my old team. The player is saying, in effect: “I promise to sign with you for a fair rate, once we figure out what a fair rate is.”

    That this many young players have decided to file for arbitration rather than try to leave Winnipeg, as is their right, actually speaks very well to how much they have bought into the community and the team.