Bits: Pre-Comeau Pre-Arbitration Signings: Hansen, Dubinsky, Callahan

The environment right now.

We're due to dig deeper into Blake Comeau's arbitration hearing next week -- there is a fairly major event happening between now and then -- but in the meantime we'll also keep an eye on the arbitration-bound players who have signed before their hearings. Add another one, possibly the final one, in Canucks forward Jannik Hansen (praise be to Denmark), who avoided arbitration with a three-year, $4.05 million deal. (More at Nucks Misconduct here.)

Hansen's NHL production thus far is closer to Josh Bailey's than Comeau's (and Hansen is Comeau's age, not 21-year-old Bailey's), but this "how good is he?" environment is good to watch overall. While Bailey isn't arbitration eligible, he needs a new contract this summer, too.

Comeau's is the last hearing on the NHL's schedule -- and there are actually only three who have yet to sign (Zach Parise and Shea Weber being the other two). Still, as we've discussed previously, it's unlikely to go that far. Newsday's Katie Strang did quote GM Garth Snow as saying "it looks like" the case will go arbitration, but please remember every arbitration-bound case "looks" that way...until they settle, usually within 24 hours of the scheduled hearing. GM's who don't publicly posture will at minimum keep cards close to the vest during negotiations.

(Hell, yesterday both Snow and Devils GM Lou Lamoriello independently told their beat reporters that the Trent Hunter - Brian Rolston trade had essentially nothing to do with the cap. This is what they do.)

Significant Arbitration Dodges

The beauty and the bane of arbitration is you are dealing with players who have some positive trajectories, but also a lot of unknowns. Callahan and Dubinsky, as perhaps the two most proven quantities in this years arbitration class (outside of Weber and Parise, who've yet to sign) pulled the big money. Hansen had a nice season and has some positive peripherals, but his record is even thinner than Bailey's. Cogliano falls in the middle: He was bright early but has trended the wrong way. The Ducks probably paid him too much, but it's a sign of what they hope he can still become.

Where does that leave Comeau? Comeau's coming off his best season in terms of games played, points -- and of course those 24 goals, which stand out as both beacon and red flag. If he can score 24+ goals per year, he's probably worth close to whatever he's asking. Twenty-four goals from your third-line wing is nice to have. But do you worry his streakiness will show last season to be an arbitration-year fluke? If so, then you know why his is a tricky case.

Underlying all of this is the incentive Hansen was after: Security. If Comeau's after security, that comes at an annual discount to what you can get in a one- or two-year award. Conversely, if you pull down a big number in an arbitration award for a year or two, you also may be pricing yourself out of sticking around when cheaper replacements emerge through the ranks.

That's the reality of a cap system -- and to make matters more interesting, the next CBA is undefined, and this one expires in September 2012.

Last summer, the Islanders narrowly avoided arbitration with Matt Moulson -- but only on a one-year deal for $2.45 million. It was sustained performance this past season that earned him a mid-season three-year extension.

Will Comeau be so lucky?

 

Specter of a Trade?

Along these lines, wow are fans speculating about another trade in the near term. Some are inferring Comeau, as the arbitration wild card, must be trade bait for the Islanders' much-discussed "top four" blueline upgrade. Others are figuring Bailey, whose enigmatic first three seasons haven't yet erased the intrigue of "top 10 pick" from his resume, could be surplus to needs with Ryan Strome and some nice bottom-six centers in the prospect pipeline.

It's just July, so people are going to talk that way. From the arena referendum Monday to Comeau's pending arbitration Thursday to the Rolston trade and continued cap floor watching, a lot of people just smell another move. Time will tell.

 

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