Tuesday, July 29, 2008

An inside look at arbitration

I've written a few times this summer about arbitration, but what we often don't get is an inside look at what exactly goes on in a hearing. Are they actually as ugly as Larry Brooks's portrayal of what Sean Avery went through last season?

Recently, I had the chance to review portions of Capitals defenceman Shaone Morrisonn's arbitration case, and the results are part of a story in today's newspaper:
... the Capitals offered several less than flattering assessments of Morrisonn, a stay-at-home defenceman who was fourth on the team in ice time last season. Calling him "one-dimensional," Washington argued that Morrisonn received substantial playing time in 2005-06 and 2006-07 on a weak team as a result of being "at the right place at the right time."
No wonder the headlines always read "Player X avoids arbitration."

Originally, 15 NHL players exercised their arbitration rights this summer, but Dennis Wideman, Chad Larose, Marek Svatos, Jay Bouwmeester, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Stephane Veilleux, Sean Bergenheim, Dan Fritsche, Jay McClement, Marcel Goc and Brooks Laich all signed prior to their hearings.

Morrisonn was the first player to go to arbitration this off-season when his case was heard last Thursday. Predators defenceman Ville Koistinen had his hearing on Monday morning, while Ottawa's Antoine Vermette and Detroit's Valtteri Filppula are up Thursday and Friday.

I wouldn't be surprised if Vermette goes to arbitration, given how those negotiations have reportedly progressed, but Filppula should have a contract before that point.

The figures in the Morrisonn case give you an idea of how far apart the parties can sometimes be and why they end up in front of an arbitrator. The Capitals offered $1.1-million as a target salary; the NHLPA was aiming for $2.8-million.

In the end, after Morrisonn's statistics were exhaustively compared to 11 other "comparable" players (six submitted by each side, with Canadiens defenceman Mike Komisarek named by both), he was given a salary that was almost exactly right down the middle: $1.975-million.

Over the next few days, I'll try to offer a closer look at how "comparables" work in arbitration and what statistical measures are used when evaluating a primarily stay-at-home defenceman like Morrisonn.

UPDATE I'll be on Edmonton's 630 CHED tonight at about 9 p.m. talking to Dan Tencer regarding arbitration cases in the NHL.

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At 11:26 a.m., July 29, 2008, Blogger Nick said...

this Filppula situation is driving me nuts. We've been hearing that this is going to get done before the deadline for weeks.

At 12:35 p.m., July 29, 2008, Blogger Ned Braden said...

Do we know who the 11 comparables were?

At 12:47 p.m., July 29, 2008, Blogger Baroque said...

The deadline isn't until Friday.

Come on, Nick - didn't you ever finish a paper the night before it was due and grab it off the printer on your way to class so you had to staple the pages together when you got to the lecture hall? :)

(That's why I always had a few binder clips in my bag, just in case they were out of staples.)

At 2:09 p.m., July 29, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Do we know who the 11 comparables were?

They're in the Globe story I'd linked to.

Milan Jurcina, Josh Gorges, Lukas Krajicek, Mark Stuart, Garnet Exelby and Mike Komisarek from the team. Trevor Daley, Tim Gleason, Fedor Tyutin, Henrik Tallinder, Anton Volchenkov and Komisarek from the NHLPA.

At 3:28 p.m., July 29, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They should have a rule that the player CAN'T attend arbitration hearing. Now it's set so that it's almost mandatory (NHLPA insist that player not attending will lose his case) to be present.

This way hearing would be unemotional business dealing. Maybe they could also change judge's power to determine salary as he/she pleased.

Instead the judge should pick one or the other number so both sides would be more realistic what they ask.

NHL teams use outside counsels just to attack player. It's cheap but probably helpful because they still use this strategy.

As far as I know player's side has always been polite. They can't go in there with case where GM is blasted for giving too many no trades (JFJ) or coach having no system (Keenan).

No players in hearings and the judge taking one of the two presented sums. It would be better system.

And I approve this message.


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