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The Ottawa Senators' History with Arbitration

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Mike Hoffman filed for salary arbitration over the weekend. Here's a look at what's happened when Sens players have gone to arbitration in the past.

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In case you missed it, Mike Hoffman filed for arbitration on Saturday, and Alex Chiasson filed on Sunday. July 5th was the deadline to apply for player-elected arbitration. An RFA is eligible for arbitration according to the following table:

Hoffman signed his ELC in July 2010, meaning he was 20 at the time. This meant he had to accrue four years of professional experience, a total he actually reached by summer 2014. However, with minimal NHL experience, he didn't apply for arbitration that year. Leading all rookies in goals last year with 27, he looks to have a lot more leverage this year. Chiasson signed in March 2012, and he was 21 at the time. 2014-15 was Chiasson's third professional season, making this his first year of arbitration eligibility. His scoring numbers were low, but the addition of advanced stats to arbitration hearing may help his case.

The NHL sets the date for arbitration hearings once the player has chosen one. Both sides submit a dollar figure and their case. An independent arbiter hands down a ruling in between the two numbers. In the case of player-elected arbitration, the team can decide whether they want the decision to be for one or two years. Also in player-elected arbitration, the team is permitted to walk away from a contract that is more than a specified amount. The 2013 CBA set this amount at $3.5-million, increased proportionally to the increase in league-average salary each year, so B_T estimates this year's at about $3.8-million. The two groups are permitted to negotiate a contract outside of the arbitration, and may sign a contract up until the arbiter's decision is released. The player cannot be traded until an contract is signed. (For more details of arbitration, check out this handy article from The Score.)

So that's how it works - but what is the precedent? What typically happens when the Senators go to salary arbitration with a player? Here's a look at what's happened since the 2005-06 lockout:

2014

Derek Grant filed for arbitration, and was given a hearing date of July 24th. However, the two sides settled on a one-year, two-way contract worth $700,000 in the NHL on July 9th.

2013

Erik Condra filed for arbitration on the deadline of July 10th, but signed a two-year, one-way contract worth $1.25-million a year just two days later.

2012

Kaspars Daugavins filed for arbitration. His hearing was scheduled for July 24th, but he signed with the Sens one day earlier. The sticking point was two-way vs. one-way. The two sides agreed to a one-year, one-way contract worth $635,000.

2010

Both Chris Campoli and Peter Regin filed for arbitration. Both settled before their respective dates. Campoli took one year at $1.4-million, while Regin took two years at an annual average of $1-million.

2008

Antoine Vermette filed for arbitration, but settled ahead of time to a two-year contract at an average annual value of $2.7625-million. This was a lower salary than expected, the trade-off being Vermette would be a UFA at the end of the two years.

2007

Ray Emery, Chris Kelly, and Christoph Schubert both filed for arbitration. Each settled ahead of time. Emery agreed to a three-year contract averaging out to $3.157-million per year moments before his arbitration hearing began. Schubert agreed to a three-year, $883k-per-year deal on the same date as Emery's hearing. A week later (and one day before his own hearing), Kelly agreed to a one-year contract worth $1.26-million.

2006

Ottawa had a really busy year as five players applied for arbitration: Martin Havlat, Chris Neil, Peter Schaefer, Chris Kelly, and Antoine Vermette. Four of the players signed deals ahead of their hearings: Vermette signed on July 18th, Neil and Kelly signed on July 26th, and Schaefer signed on July 29th. Looking for salary cap relief, the Sens traded Havlat to the Blackhawks instead of waiting for his hearing. The 'Hawks signed him to a three-year, $6-million-per-year contract before his hearing.

Conclusions

Ottawa has had, on average, more than one player go to salary arbitration each year for the last 10 years. That's quite a lot, since there are typically fewer than 30 cases per offseason. The good news is that Bryan Murray and his staff have gained lots of experience dealing with arbitration cases. After all, Muckler dealt with the 2006 negotiations, but the rest of these were led by Murray. Arbitration is tough for both sides, and that's led to the Sens letting none of the 14 players make it to their hearings. 13 were signed, and Havlat was traded. ( Though in the latest CBA, trading a player with a pending arbitration hearing isn't an option. They cannot be traded until a contract is signed.)

I expect the Sens to sign both Hoffman and Chiasson to a contract before their hearings to avoid the discomfort of arbitration. I expect Hoffman's deal to be for one year so that he is still an RFA at the end of the year. Chiasson's may also be for one year, simply because his role with the team was reduced as the season went on. With bridge contracts signed by Zibanejad and Stone, it's unlikely the team goes long-term with Chiasson. If they reach the hearings, the Sens won't have the option of walking from Chiasson's because the dollar figure won't be high enough. I doubt Hoffman will be awarded more than $3.8-million, but if he is, I still expect the Sens to retain him because of his value as an asset. In my opinion, a sign-and-trade becomes more likely with Hoffman the higher his salary. I don't see Chiasson getting traded because of pride about the Jason Spezza trade, and because I don't think he'll have nearly as much value. However, the team seems down on Hoffman because of perceived defensive shortcomings, may think his value has peaked, and probably doesn't love that he's forced their hand by filing for arbitration. I wouldn't be surprised to see him traded before the season starts.