In Tuesday’s Globe and Mail, James Mirtle uncovers the unpleasant side of the NHL’s arbitration system, in which clubs make the case that their player ain’t all that while the NHLPA suggests that the club pretty much can’t live without him. “When cases go to a hearing, they can often get ugly, as players, agents and teams fight for dollars under the salary cap,” Mirtle writes this morning. In Shaone Morrisonn’s case, ugly is the operative word.
Morrisonn was awarded $1.975 million in his arbitration case this past Saturday, but according to Mirtle, “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.” As in:
“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.”
“Morrisonn’s agent, Mark Stowe, said negotiations before the hearing were extremely contentious.”
Mirtle goes on to suggest that such acrimony is a principal reason why so many cases ultimately never make it to the actual arbitration hearing, citing most recently Jay Bouwmeester’s coming to terms with Florida for one year and $5 million. With hundreds of thousands — indeed millions — of dollars at stake, and under a cap-constrained environment, it’s understandable that the two sides would make the best possible cases for their respective positions. But that means some tough language on one side and all sweetness and light on the other.
More from Mirtle on the inside of this messy moment:
“In the Morrisonn case, the Capitals were seeking a salary of $1.1-million in arbitration and used six other young defencemen as comparables: Milan Jurcina, Josh Gorges, Lukas Krajicek, Mark Stuart, Garnet Exelby and Mike Komisarek.
“On behalf of the player, the National Hockey League Players’ Association asked for $2.8-million and used Trevor Daley, Tim Gleason, Fedor Tyutin, Henrik Tallinder, Anton Volchenkov and Komisarek as comparisons.
“In response to the club’s filing, the NHLPA argued that Morrisonn played a key role in the team’s Southeast Division championship under new coach Bruce Boudreau. Even though Morrisonn has had only five goals and 37 points over 234 games the past three seasons, the union said his contributions in his own zone and killing penalties justified a salary of nearly $3-million.
“Unlike in major league baseball, where arbitrators choose between the salary proposed by either the player or his team, NHL arbitrators can use any salary they deem appropriate.
“Ultimately, arbitrator Terry Bethel sided slightly with the union position in the Morrisonn case, awarding a contract that was almost directly between the figures sought by the sides. Bethel indicated the NHLPA’s comparison players were more appropriate, given Morrisonn’s experience and role with the Capitals, singling out Daley and Gleason as suitable matches.”