Yesterday afternoon, Connor Hellebuyck was the lone Winnipeg Jet to file for club-elected arbitration.
Relax, it’s not a huge issue. At least for now it shouldn’t be. It probably won’t be. Unless it becomes a big issue in a month’s time. But it probably won’t.
Salary arbitration is available to players who are restricted free agents and have four years of NHL experience, but that length is reduced if the player signed their first contract after the age of 20. It’s one of the few tools that these players have in an effort to get what would be considered fair market value for their services – of course being able to sign an offer sheet from another NHL club would be the other main ‘tool’ a player has, but seeing as how NHL clubs seemingly have a gentlemen’s agreement not to sign predatory offer sheets for RFA’s, that tool is pretty much non-existent.
To those not fully familiar, arbitration between the club and the player is exactly how it sounds. Both the player and club submit the salary and term they have in mind and then an independent moderator agreed on by both the NHL and NHLPA hears arguments from both sides.
If you’re concerned that something like this could get a little nasty and lead to sore feelings, well it’s because in the past it has and it does.
Teams in an effort to argue for their side will point out flaws in the player through video footage and stats, they can also argue on how his overall performance affected the team as a whole and for a team like the Jets and a position of goaltender, there is no doubt it came under a lot of scrutiny last season.
Players can also use stats and video to make their argument for their case. They can also argue that they were not used properly by the coaching staff, or in Hellebuyck’s case argue that the team in front of him made his life more difficult.
It’s not exactly the most sun-shiny, fun filled, good feeling process to go through, which is why teams and agents representing the players try to avoid it. Both sides can try to negotiate a deal right up until mere minutes before the hearing starts and more often than not will reach a deal.
Arbitration =/= Bad Thing
By filing for arbitration, Connor Hellebuyck is not greedily trying to drain the Jets of every last dollar possible available. Nor are the Jets trying to pinch pennies and pay as little as is allowed for his services. As is the case with every single contract negotiation in sports, the player wants to make sure they maximize their value in what is a relatively short career span while the club can’t exactly throw out millions of dollars to every single player when there are internal budgets, or at the very least league imposed salary caps to deal with.
Negotiations can take time for a various amount of reasons and as we saw in the case of one Jacob Trouba last season, as a restricted free agent, those negotiations could drag out into training camp and the actual season and cause a developing player to miss time.
Filing for arbitration just puts a deadline of sorts on the issue, but it is in no way inevitable that things will even get that far.
So in the meantime, relax and continue to enjoy summer and be hopeful for the Jets future – a future that will include Connor Hellebuyck as a potential long term franchise goalie.