Jacob Trouba and the Winnipeg Jets couldn’t reach an agreement prior to their arbitration hearing this past Friday. They actually went through the arbitration process and the arbitrator decided on a one-year, $5.5 million contract for Trouba. In the past five years (2013-2017), we have seen 122 arbitration possibilities, but only five went to arbitration. This summer, 38 players filed. Sixteen cases have already been settled and so far only Trouba went the distance. Brett Kulak is going through it today.
When I look at how arbitrators have ruled, I’m curious why more players don’t go through it.
This is an outstanding contract for Trouba, but I do wonder how much longer he will be in Winnipeg. This is the second time he and the Jets had a “tough” negotiation. Two years ago, Trouba had no arbitration rights and he actually sat out two months before signing a two-year extension. This summer his camp and the Jets couldn’t reach a deal, so they used an arbitrator and Trouba should be ecstatic with the results.
It is only a one-year deal, but he is now a $5.5 million player and two years away from unrestricted free agency. He could go through this again next year, get another one year deal and then be a UFA.
Elliott Friedman reported that, heading into arbitration, the Jets presented a $4 million, one-year deal, while Trouba’s camp was asking for $7 million. On our radio show, Jason Strudwick and I said we expected the arbitrator to meet somewhere in the middle. We can look at that and say that is a fair negotiation, but when you crunch Trouba’s numbers, I believe this ruling favoured him.
His best offensive season was 33 points. This past season he was tied for 75th in points among defenders with 24. He was tied for 61st in EV points. He only played 55 games and I’m sure his camp used pts/60, where he ranked 16th among D-men with more than 750 EV minutes. He did have the highest D-zone to O-zone starts among Jets defenders, and his underlying numbers were very good. He was put in more of a defensive role, and without question playing defence matters a lot, but a one-year deal at $5.5 million is a great deal for Trouba.
Over the past three seasons, he is 57th among D-men with 78 points and is 44th with 63 EV points. Nick Holden ($2.2 mill) is 43rd with 64 and Justin Braun ($3.8mill) is 42nd with 66 EV points.
Trouba has less offence than those two because he’s played 196 games while Holden has played 235 and Braun has skated in 242 games. I’m sure Trouba’s camp used P/60 or points-per-game in their argument. Smart move, but the reality is P/60 or PPG can be misleading if a player is always missing large sums of playing time.
Braun only missed four games the past three seasons, Holden missed 11, while Trouba has missed 50 games. Trouba has played in 79.6% of the Jets games the past three seasons, and in his five-year career he has dressed in 79.5% of the games. He did miss 15 games at the start of the 2016/2017 season holding out for a new contract, but he has still missed a lot of time due to injuries in his career.
It is difficult to predict injuries, and I understand why some prefer not to look at that in contract negotiations, but when a player is constantly missing games I do believe it plays a part. For me, actual points have more value than P/60 or points-per-game. It is impossible to impact the game from the press box, and I do see value in P/60, but when you are missing 20% of the games that means 20% of the time you have zero impact on the team.
Make no mistake I believe Trouba is a better defender than those two. I love his nastiness, but he got a pretty big bump in pay and compared to others who produce points and play tough minutes he got it earlier than most of them.
BIG MONEY EARLIER…
By going to arbitration, Trouba, 24 years of age, got big money earlier than expected based on his production thus far. Trouba now has the 27th highest salary among NHL defenders, but the only D-men younger than him who make more are Aaron Ekblad and Matt Dumba.
Ekblad (22 and $7.5m) has yet to top the 40-point mark, but he does have seasons of 36, 38 and 39 points. He is entering the second year of an eight-year deal.
Dumba (turns 24 on Wednesday) just signed a five-year deal worth $6 million/year on the weekend. In the past three seasons he has 110 EV points (31st among D) and 137 points (29th overall) and his coming off a 50-point season.
The other D-men 27 years old and younger making $5.5 million are Viktor Hedman (27 and $7.85m), Cam Fowler (26 and $6.5m), Dougie Hamilton (25 and $5.75m) and Colton Parayko (25 and $5.5m).
Trouba’s new deal puts him in a very small group. It is a great deal for him and I wonder if other young players will be willing to sit through arbitration to get a better deal. Trouba has to be qualified at $5.5 million next year, so even though this is a one-year deal it virtually guarantees him the same contract next year before possibly becoming a UFA in the summer of 2020.
Trouba’s $5.5 million contract was the third highest all-time among defenders trailing only Shea Weber’s $7.5 million in 2011 and Scott Niedermayer’s $7 million in 2004.
Arbitration fascinates me. I’m always interested to see who the team and player use as comparisons when presenting to the arbitrator. I haven’t been able to get Trouba’s comparables yet, but I was able to get a source to provide me with Nate Schmidt’s arbitration case from last summer.
Schmidt played two full seasons (2016 and 2017) with the Washington Capitals after splitting the previous two years between the Capitals and the AHL. Vegas picked him in the expansion draft and he filed for arbitration.
His camp asked for a two-year deal with a $2.85 million AAV ($2.75 in year one and $2.95m in year two). Vegas countered with $950,000 in year one and $1 million in year two for a $975,000 AAV.
Vegas used Ben Chiarot ($1.4m AAV) and Martin Marincin ($1.25m AAV) as comparables, while Schmidt’s agents countered with Mark Pysyk (three years, $2.733m), Nathan Beaulieu ( two years, $2.4m) and Alex Petrovic (one year, $1.85m).
The arbitrator awarded Schmidt $2.15 mill in year one and $2.3 million in year two for an AAV of $2.225 million. Schmidt had produced 16 and 17 points seasons in Washington, albeit in a third pairing role. Last year with Vegas he scored 36 points and played the most minutes. It turned out to be a great value deal for Vegas as well, but by Schmidt betting on himself, and his agent’s presentation, he earned more than Vegas was offering prior to arbitration.
DON’T ALWAYS WIN…
Players don’t always win, of course. In the summer of 2015, Mike Hoffman and the Ottawa Senators went to arbitration. Hoffman had just finished his first NHL season where he produced 27-21-48 in 79 games. He’d played 29 NHL games over the previous three seasons, but this was his first full season in the Show.
They went into arbitration asking for a one-year, $3.4 million deal and the Senators countered with $1.75 million.
The Senators used two comparisons. Anders Lee (25-16-41) who had just signed a four-year, $3.75m AAV extension, but they used the first three years ($3.33m AAV) as an accurate comparison and did not include the fourth because it was a UFA years. The other was Chris Kreider (21-25-46) who had just finished the first year of his two-year $2.475 AAV.
Hoffman’s camp used five. The above two as well as Tyler Johnson (29-43-72), who finished first year of a three-year $3.33m AAV, Alex Killhorn (15-23-38), who finished first year of his two-year $2.55m AAV and Evgeny Kuznetsov (11-26-37) who had just signed a two-year, $3 million AAV extension for the next season. I think it was a big error to use Johnson. He had just scored 72 points.
It is interesting to note the arbitrator did include playoff production, which I found interesting considering it is such a small sample, and that didn’t help Hoffman. He produced less in the playoffs than Kreider, who his camp had used as a comparison. The arbitrator also dug into when Hoffman scored and concluded that he scored most of his goals earlier in the season, and late in the year when the Senators went on that ridiculous run to make the postseason, he didn’t produce as much down the stretch. He scored four goals in the final 22 games. But if you split up his season he produced 15-8-23 in the first 40 games and 12-23-25 in the final 39. Yes, he didn’t score as many goals, but he had more points. Fascinating to read the arbitrator said he saw no reason to pay him more than Lee.
That is fair, but much less that was have surprised the Hoffman camp. I can see why some players don’t want to go through arbitration.
The arbitrator awarded Hoffman a one-year, $2 million contract.
I’ve been told arbitration can be difficult for players to go through, more so Hoffman than Trouba and Schmidt I’d guess, and maybe the risk isn’t worth it for players, but if I was a young defenceman. If I was a forward I might not.
Marcus Johansson went through it in 2015 asking for $4.75 million on a one-year deal, while the Capitals countered with $3 million. The Arbitrator ruled at $3.75 million. Also in 2015 Alex Chiasson asked for $2.475, while the Senators countered with $1 million. Arbitrator decided on $1.2 million.
These five rulings are the most recent five, and the trend has shown D-men get better results in arbitration than forwards. Will it lead to more players going through the process? We’ll see.