Puck School: What the Heck is Arbitration?

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Outside of watching Debrincat highlights from the Chicago Pro Hockey League, I haven’t been paying attention to much of anything hockey recently. But I do keep seeing tweets and snippets referencing players going through salary arbitration. Non hockey blog Zane would pretend to understand what’s going on and move on with his life. But I’m hockey blog Zane now, so I spent 18 minutes on google and got to writing.

So, what is arbitration? Arbitration is when a player and team negotiate a salary for the next season, and an independent party determines what the salary should be. Who is eligible? Restricted Free Agents. What actually is a restricted free agent (RFA)? Wow, you can see the rabbit hole learning takes me down. Let’s start over in an organized manner.

A player becomes an RFA when his contract is up before he is 27 or has played 7 years in the league. At this point his current team can give a qualifying offer, and the player can sign this or seek an offer sheet from another team. If an offer sheet from another team is signed, the player’s current team can match it, or let the player walk (if the player leaves, the current team gets compensatory draft picks).

At any point during the negotiating process a player can file for salary arbitration. The team can also file for arbitration (but can only do it to a player once). In late July/ early August, the cases are heard and the mediators propose a fair salary. At this point, the team can decide to sign the player for a one year deal at the proposed salary, or let the player become an unrestricted free agent.

My take: I’m glad this doesn’t exist in real life. I’m scared to see what an arbitrator would decide my yearly salary should be. Can’t think of many quicker ways to injure my ego.

Pretty simple stuff that I never really understood. Pencils down kiddos. Thanks for attending Puck School.

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