One of the interesting wrinkles in the contract negotiations between defencemen Justin Schultz and Jeff Petry was that the players had the right to take the team to arbitration, a right that had to be exercised by 5:00 PM New York time on July 5 if a hearing was to take place.
In an interesting bit of non-news, neither player was among the 20 listed by the NHLPA as filing for arbitration.
Fully half of the league’s 30 teams now face the prospect of an arbitration hearing if they are unable to reach an agreement with their free agent(s) beforehand. The full list via the NHLPA can be found here, and there are some interesting names on it.
Montreal has an interesting summer ahead. P.K. Subban, as expected, exercised his right to arbitration, but he was joined by Lars Eller, the 25-year old who was so good in 2012-13 and during the playoffs for the Habs.
New York had three different players elect, and all three are key forwards: Chris Kreider, Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello. Toronto will have to deal with both Cody Franson and James Reimer, a duo that have been frequently mentioned in trade rumours over the last few months.
Alberta’s other team also has an interesting hearing coming up. 24-year-old Joe Colborne, a 6’5” centre, scored 28 points in his rookie NHL season in Calgary and now will elect for arbitration.
Reading the Tea Leaves
The decision by both players to pass on arbitration can be spun in any manner of ways, but the simplest is this: the team and the players are pretty much on the same page.
Petry in particular is interesting because he’s only a year from unrestricted free agency. If his camp had really wanted to play hardball, electing for salary arbitration would have been a great way to make sure that he both got paid and was free to test the market next summer. As Bruce McCurdy put in his take on the subject:
[Petry] held the “arbitration hammer” in what we can only presume are ongoing negotiations. That he chose not to exercise it may be a tell that things are close to a decision point. That could be an extension, or it could be a trade.
Possibly of interest is a comment from general manager Craig MacTavish on Jason Gregor’s show in mid-June, where he said the Oilers “fully anticipate” signing the defenceman to a new contact.
Schultz is less surprising, simply because of the many things Craig MacTavish has said about him in the past. For example, he was asked whether he’d prefer to sign Schultz to a bridge contract or a long-term deal at his end-of-season press availability and offered the following:
I’m open to both. It’ll be dependent on really what Justin wants to do. I think I’ve been clear all along on the upside that I see from Justin Schultz. He’s a developing player. He’s just completed his first NHL season, his upside is limitless. So I have a lot of confidence and would have the confidence to extend Justin on a long-term deal. When I analyze the deals that we’ve extended to some of the other players, some of the other long-term deals. I don’t think – I mean, the argument against a long-term deal for a young player is that it takes away their motivation, but I can’t say that any of those long-term deals has dissuaded any of those individuals from aspiring to be as good as they can be.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if in both of these cases the Oilers and the players involved have pretty decent communication and aren’t worried about arbitration. There are other possible interpretations, but Schultz and Petry opting to pass on the chance to get a second opinion on their value is probably good news for the team.