The NHLPA has announced the dates of the hearings for all 24 players that elected for salary arbitration. Alex Killorn has been set for July 20th and Vladislav Namestnikov has been set for July 29th.
As discussed here last week, the fact that deals have not been completed for Killorn and Namestnikov is likely a big reason why Nikita Kucherov has not signed a deal yet either. Within the next week and a half we could have some more clarity on what the team will do. Either a contract will be signed, a move will be made, or Killorn’s salary will be set in arbitration.
For those that don’t know, players that meet the eligibility requirements can file for salary arbitration, which both Killorn and Namestnikov chose to do. Both sides, the player and the club, will submit a salary. Since it is a player-elected arbitration, the club will choose weather they want a one or two year contract.
At the hearing, both sides will make their cases. The evidence allowed includes overall performance of the player, number of games played, injuries, length of service, the contribution of the player to the success of the club, special qualities such as leadership or public appeal, overall performance of comparable players, and the compensation of comparable players.
Evidence that cannot be used are contracts of players that were not restricted free agents when signed, qualifying offers made by the club, prior offers or negotiations between the player and the club, testimonials, videotapes, newspaper columns, or similar materials, financial situation of the club, references to the club’s salary cap situation. There are other, narrow applications of not allowed evidence as well.
Once the hearing is completed and the arbitrator makes their decision, the club and the player must sign a contract within 48 hours of notice. However, the club will retain “Walk-Away Rights” if the award is for more than $3.5 million. The club has the right to walk away from the contract awarded within 48 hours of the arbitration award.
If the club elected for a one-year contract, then the player immediately becomes an unrestricted free agent free to sign with any team. If the club elected for a two-year contract, then the club and the player will sign a one-year contract for the awarded amount and the player will become an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the contract with the club being considered to “walk away” after the first year of the contract.
One exception to the 48 hour rule, is if the team has another player still scheduled for salary arbitration: in the Lightning’s case with Killorn, Namestnikov will still be scheduled if he doesn’t sign before then. In that case, the Lightning can wait until 48 hours after Namestnikov’s hearing to make a decision on Killorn.
The team and the players can still come to an agreement before the arbitration hearings occur. It’s also possible that a move could be coming within the next week or so that will make room for all of the contract signings that are needed without arbitration being require. That could be a trade of an existing contract, like Valtteri Filppula, or it could be a trade of one of the still un-signed players.
Additionally, after the last salary arbitration case is resolved, another buy out period will open up for the team if it elects to buy out Filppula if they cannot trade him. A buyout of Filppula would reduce is $5 million cap hit over the next two years to $1,666,666 over the next four years. A trade would be an obviously better solution even if the return is minimal or salary retention is required.
The next three weeks or so will be nerve racking until all of these contract situations have been resolved. Contracts for Kucherov, Nikita Nesterov, and Yanni Gourde also all seem to be in the balance waiting for the resolution of Killorn and Namestnikov. This may not be quite as nerve racking as waiting on Steven Stamkos, but it’s getting close.