Ten Thursday Thoughts: Salary Arbitration, Team Improvement, and the Women’s World Cup

Photo credit:Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
10 months ago
Some thoughts on arbitration, point projections, standings and more.
1. Of the 23 players who filed for arbitration only 11 still don’t have a contract. Phillip Kurashev’s (Chicago) hearing is today. He scored 9-16-25 in 70 games last season with a $750k cap hit. He was drafted 120th overall in 2018 by Chicago. The Blackhawks have loads of cap space and are rebuilding. He and his agent likely believe he could get $1.5m, maybe more in arbitration, so why not go through the process? We’ve only seen two players go through arbitration recently in the past three years.
Tyler Bertuzzi was awarded a one-year, $3.5m deal in 2020 and Yakov Trenin was awarded $1.7m (Nashville opted for two years) last season. Trenin had 17 goals and 24 points in 80 games. Kurashev had more points, but fewer goals. He also played 70 games compared to 80. If Chicago doesn’t offer him at least $1.5m, I see no reason why Kurashev won’t go the distance today.
2. Over the past decade we have seen 17 cases where an arbitrator decided the contract for a player. There were none in 2013, Vladimir Sobotka ($2.25m) in 2014, Alex Chiasson ($1.2m), Mike Hoffman ($2m) and Marcus Johansson ($3.75m) in 2015, none in 2016, Nate Schmidt ($2.25m x 2years) in 2017, Gemel Smith ($720k0, Brett Kulak ($900k), Cody Ceci ($4.3m) and Jacob Trouba ($5.5m) in 2018, Anton Forsberg ($775k), Rocco Grimaldi ($1m), Christian Djoos ($1.25m), Evan Rodriguez ($2m), Andrew Copp ($2.28m x 2 yrs) and Joel Edmundson ($3.1m) in 2019, Bertuzzi ($3.5m) in 2020, none in 2021 and Trenin ($1.7m x 2 yrs) in 2022.
3. Another 10 players went through arbitration but then reached an agreement prior to the arbitrator’s ruling. The arbitrator has 48 hours to make their decision after the hearing concludes. Here are the players and teams who went through the entire process, but then opted for a deal rather than wait for the arbitrator ruling (this is no longer allowed though. Once hearing starts arbitrator ruling is only option):
2014: PK Subban and Montreal. They agreed to an eight-year, $9m AAV contract.
2015: Lance Bouma and Calgary agreed to a three-year deal at $2.2m AAV, Jonathon Bernier and Toronto signed a four-year, $4.125m deal, Craig Smith and Nashville signed a five-year, $4.25m deal and Braden Holtby signed for five years at $6.1m with Washington.
2016: Tyson Barrie and Colorado inked a four-year, $5.5m deal.
2017: Viktor Arvidsson and Nashville signed a seven-year, $4.125m pact and Tomas Tatar and Detroit signed a four-year, $5.3m AAV deal.
2019: Remi Elie and Buffalos agreed to a one-year, $700k deal and Buffalo also signed Linus Ullmark for one-year at $1.35m.
Historically, players who go through arbitration end up with pretty good, and sometimes great, contracts.
4. Ilya Samsonov (tomorrow), Vince Dunn (Monday), Jeremy Swayman and Jack McBain (July 30th), Trent Frederic (August 1st), Troy Terry (August 2nd) and Ryan McLeod, Filip Gustavsson, Drew O’Connor and Brandon Scanlin (August 4th) are the other 10 remaining who could still go through the arbitration. I’d expect a few will.
5. One main question we ponder in the off-season is which teams have improved. It is easy for non-playoff teams to look like they’ve improved. Detroit has made some quality additions, so has Columbus, but is it enough to put them in the playoffs? Ottawa traded Alex Debrincat for Dominik Kubalik and some draft picks, while they replaced Cam Talbot with Joonas Korpisalo. They should have enough offence to overcome the loss of Debrincat, and Korpisalo should be an upgrade. The main question is: Will their team defence improve and is DJ Smith the right coach?
6. I’m more interested in what teams that made the playoffs last year did. The Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights did very little. They traded Reilly Smith to Pittsburgh for a third round pick to free up $5m in cap space. They used five goalies last year and Laurent Brossoit and Jonathon Quick won’t return. Vegas should be competitive, and the main question I have is how many games will Mark Stone play? Will his back hold up?
Dallas added Matt Duchene on a great contract at $3m as well as Craig Smith ($1m) and Sam Steel ($800k) on little-risk-good-upside-potential deals. Their core is intact. I wonder if they are quick enough to go deep in the playoffs.
Seattle had an unreal season last year, but I don’t see them repeating it. Their fourth line had everything go right for them last year, but Daniel Sprong, Ryan Donato and Morgan Geekie all left via free agency. Carson Soucy signed in Vancouver and the Kraken replaced those four with Brian Dumoulin, Kailer Yamamoto and Bellemare. They will sign another UFA forward, once Dunn signs a contract. I see the Kraken taking a step back, but I’m not sure how big of a step back it will be.
Colorado made quite a few changes. They added Ryan Johansen, Ross Colton, Jonathon Drouin and Miles Wood while J.T Compher, Lars Eller, Alex Newhook, Evan Rodrigues, Matt Nieto and Erik Johnson are out. Gabriel Landeskog will miss his second full season. The Avalanche will make the playoffs. They have too much top-end skill not to. If they are healthy when the playoffs begin, they will be a contender.
Winnipeg traded Pierre-Luc Dubois, bought out Blake Wheeler and might move Mark Schiefele and Connor Hellebuyck during the season. They acquired Gabe Vilardi, Alex Iafallo, Rasmus Kupari for PLD and brought Laurent Brossoit back as their backup. Moving out Wheeler will help their team chemistry, but I wonder how much the potential trades of Schiefele and Hellebuyck will impact the team’s mindset during the season. If they keep them all season the Jets will be competitive and should be a playoff team.
LA added Dubois, brought in Cam Talbot and should have young Brandt Clark on the blue line. The Kings should be a playoff team. Until Korpisalo arrived at the trade deadline, the Kings’ other goalies had a combined Sv% of .900. Talbot and Copley don’t need to be great for LA to be competitive. LA is solid, but I don’t see them having a deep playoff run based on their current roster.
Minnesota’s biggest challenge is they are trying to compete with $14.74m in dead cap space. They could make the playoffs, but I don’t see them going deep against teams with deeper rosters. They moved on from John Klingberg, Ryan Reaves, Gustav Nyquist and Matt Dumba. So far, they’ve only added Patrick Maroon. Look for Brock Faber to grab a spot on their blue line. The Wild are a scrappy, competitive team, but will be in a battle to make the playoffs. Calgary, St.Louis and Vancouver should push them.
The Oilers added Connor Brown in place of Yamamoto. Nick Bjugstad and Klim Kostin are gone and will be replaced by Lane Pederson and Dylan Holloway, who should get more ice time. I still see the Oilers signing a centre to push Pederson. Raphael Lavoie could be ready. The Oilers main core players are returning. They will be a playoff team, and the question is: can they reduce their glaring error/giveaway? If they do, they should win their division. They will be a Cup contender.
7. In the East, we could see a few teams drop out.
New Jersey added Tyler Toffoli, Tomas Nosek and Colin Miller, and they expect youngsters Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec to fill out their blue line. They moved on from Damon Severson, Yegor Sharangovich, Ryan Graves, Miles Wood and Tomas Tatar. Timo Meier will start the season with the Devils, after being acquired at the trade deadline. He will be more productive than he was post-deadline. My question is: will their blue line be better with more youth? Teams don’t win the Cup with lots of inexperience on the blue line.
Carolina added Dmitri Orlov and Michael Bunting. But they still lack an offensive star. They have many really good players and have arguably the best 1-6 defence corps in the NHL. They will be a very good regular season team, but unless they add an offensive star at the deadline, I don’t see them winning the Cup.
Florida traded Anthony Duclair and lost Radko Gudas and Mark Staal in free agency. They will also start the season without their two best D-men. Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour. They had to add blueliners and brought in Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Mike Reilly, Niko Mikkola and Dmitri Kulikov. They have an excellent top-nine forward group, and despite injuries on the backend I still expect them to make the playoffs. I’m interested to see how Spencer Knight plays after he returns from being in the NHLPA player assistance program. If he can return to form the Panthers goaltending should be solid. Anthony Stolarz is a very solid third option.
Toronto added lots of grit and some skill in Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi and Ryan Reaves. John Klingberg will help them offensively, but the main question still surrounds the Maple Leafs: Is their blue line good enough to go on a long playoff run? They will make the playoffs, but what Brad Treliving does at the trade deadline likely impacts how deep they go.
Tampa Bay lost Alex Killorn, Ross Colton, Corey Perry, Patrick Maroon, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Ian Cole. They replaced them with Calvin de Haan, Conor Sheary, Luke Glendening, Logan Brown and Josh Archibald. They got quicker, but smaller. They are hoping Tanner Jeannot will rebound after a rough 2023. They still have elite forwards, defence and one of the best goalies in the NHL. Jon Cooper is a great coach, and unless Tampa suffers some serious injuries, they are a playoff team in my eyes.
The New York Rangers added Blake Wheeler at $800K. He should be a great value contract, and likely won’t be as much of voice in the room as he was in Winnipeg. They also added Tyler Pitlick and Nick Bonino. Depth moves. Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane are gone, although Kane won’t sign until he is healthy. I’d expect he will be much better than he showed last season. Whichever team signs him during the season will get a big boost. The Rangers have an elite goalie, and a very good top-four defence. Their biggest off-season move was behind the bench. Peter Laviolette replaces Gerard Gallant. Laviolette’s track record suggests the Rangers will be in the playoffs.
The New York Islanders are a playoff contender because of Ilya Sorokin and their defensive structure. But I don’t see them as a Cup contender due to their lack of offence. They did nothing to improve it, and it might be worse if Zach Parise doesn’t re-sign. Parise scored 21 goals last year for the Islanders. He is on record as saying he will either return to the Islanders or retire. If he does return, will he score 21 goals again at age 38? The Islanders are hoping Bo Horvat will produce more, but with offence increasing around the league I don’t see the Islanders as a legit contender. They will be in the mix to make the playoffs, mainly due to Sorokin, but they are far from a lock in my eyes.
Boston had the greatest regular season in NHL history last year. They could drop by 30 points, and likely will, and they’d still be a playoff team at 105 points. Crazy. But will they see an even bigger reduction in points? Their roster will look very different. Tyler Bertuzzi, Taylor Hall, Dmitri Orlov, Connor Clifton, Garnet Hathaway, Nick Foligno and Craig Smith are gone from their playoff roster. Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are still unsigned. It is doubtful both return to start the season. Bergeron seems the most likely. They’ve brought in James van Riemsdyk, Morgan Geekie, Milan Lucic, Patrick Brown, Ian Mitchell and Kevin Shattenkirk.
The Bruins will take a major step back. If Bergeron returns, they are a playoff team. They still might be without him. They are the most difficult team to project. Jim Montgomery is one of the smartest coaches in the NHL. I won’t bet against him getting his team to the playoffs, but I don’t view them as a legit Cup contender.
8. Shohei Ohtani is the best athlete in team sports right now. He is must-watch TV. He leads MLB in home runs, is third in RBIs, fifth in hits, eighth in OBP, and first in both SLG and OPS. Then as a pitcher he is fourth in strikeouts and first in batting average against. He’s also top-10 in other stats. We have never seen a player like him before. He is a pending UFA and will sign the largest contract in MLB history very soon. He likely will be traded by the Angels before the August 1st trade deadline. He is a marvel to watch. To compare him to hockey, it would be like McDavid dominating as a forward and then playing goal 30 times a year and posting great numbers.
9. I found myself in a rut workout wise, but then I purchased a Peleton six weeks ago. It has been a great purchase. The cycling classes are fun, but the core workouts, stretching, yoga and weight classes are what make it fun. My flexibility has improved immensely, mainly because I was like the Anaheim Ducks of flexibility — I could only improve. If you need a spark for you exercise or workout routine, I recommend a Peleton.
10. It seems some want to push the inequality angle when discussing the 2023 Women’s World Cup of Soccer. The prize money for the Women will be $152 million according to FIFA. The 2022 Men’s World Cup of soccer had a prize pool of $440 million. But this isn’t about gender. It is about revenue. The MWCS generated $7.5 billion in revenue. We won’t know the 2023 WWCS totals until the tournament is over, but the 2019 tournament had $131 million in revenue. This year will be much higher. Maybe even double, which is great, but even if the revenue quadruples it would be $524m.
The men received a much smaller % of total revenue in 2022 than the women will this year. If the only argument is equality, then the men could argue they should actually get paid more. There is a difference between equity and equality.
Pro sports is a business. NHL players don’t make as much as NBA, MLB or NFL players because of revenue. Not gender. Just like CFL and NLL players don’t make as much as NHL players. They are all men. It isn’t always about inequality. Sports is a business and the league and tournaments that generate more revenue have more money to give the players.
I’m looking forward to the WWCS. It should be great to watch, and the prize money has increased significantly from 2019 for the women — which is great, but I’m tired of reading and hearing about the pay. It is basic business. The more money you bring in, the more you can pay the athletes (except in the UFC, where the fighters don’t have a union and are getting taken advantage of).

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