Tuesday, August 7, 2007


With all of the recent outrage and attention being paid to offer sheets by scores of hockey fans (including yours truly), it has become the focal point of the CBA this summer. Many seem to think that the loophole in the current agreement needs to be changed next time around. I, for one, don’t mind the offer sheet so much. I think if used right it is a useful tool for competing GM’s to keep their counterparts on their toes and their houses in order as well as an avenue for them to acquire players. The part of the CBA that has always bugged me (one that seems to be overlooked) is arbitration. This is the aspect of the CBA that needs to be changed. Arbitration is a lose-lose situation for each side with ripple effects that cause deep wounds that can’t be fixed. For those unfamiliar with the process, when a team and its player files for arbitration they go to a hearing where both sides plead their cases for what they think is a fair price to pay or be paid for services. The case is heard and an arbitrator awards a decision that the player must accept and the team has a choice to accept or walk away from leaving the player a free agent. The majority of the time the team accepts the decision weather or not they like the outcome so as to not lose the player. The problems start in the hearing where the team feels the player isn’t worth the money they are asking and tries to show proof backing their case which in turn leaves a player with a bad feeling about how the team perceives their service. Then the player tries to show proof of why they are worth the money they are asking citing the salaries of comparable players and weighing that against their production. Imagine for a moment if you had to do that at your workplace. Picture your boss or your employee sitting across a table from you and both of you hashing out weather or not the employee is worth the salary they are getting or asking for. Just how nasty would it get in that room? How would you feel leaving that room (after an outside arbitrator awards his decision) knowing that you now have to go about your business? In hockey, most arbitration awards are for 1 year unless the sides choose to go for a longer term. Most of the time the team accepts the decision and leaves the hearing with a bad feeling that the player is being paid more than they are worth. The player leaves the hearing with a bad feeling about how management feels about their work. There are no winners when it comes to arbitration. Even if the decision favors one side or the other (most of the time it lands somewhere in the middle) the damage is done and the player usually leaves the team the first chance they get. Now, a smart GM (I know that’s somewhat of an oxymoron) will file their player for arbitration to protect them against offer sheets from other teams and then work hard to sign them before the case goes to a hearing to avoid the process. Take the recent situation the Ottawa Senators were in with goaltender Ray Emery. They knew he was do a raise and was a prime target for an offer sheet from a rival team, so they protected him by filing for arbitration and then re-signed him before the hearing. The result is happy team and happy player. Now take the Rangers situation with Sean Avery where the team knew he was due a raise, filed for arbitration and went to the hearing where both sides battled it out. Avery was left with a bad feeling and most likely won’t re-sign next year knowing just how management feels about him. Look at last season’s case involving the Sabres and Daniel Briere. They went to arbitration, he was awarded a 1-year deal, the team accepted and yet he left the first chance he got. It makes you wonder just what was said in that hearing that would make a co-captain of a winning team go out and have the best season of his career and jump ship as a first choice instead of re-signing. I don’t even want to get into last nights decision between the Kings and Mike Cammalleri, that’s going to be a 2- year mess if not handled right. Yes folks, it is arbitration that should be receiving the outrage and attention and not offer sheets. It should be a major focus for both sides when the current CBA expires, one that needs to be removed for the better of the game and all parties involved including the fans.

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