Josh Bailey is among the 21 NHL players who have filed for salary arbitration to determine the terms of their next contract. Today was the deadline for restricted free agents like Bailey to elect for such arbitration.
Though there is still plenty of time for both sides to reach an agreement and avoid an arbitration hearing, this isn't the first time Bailey and the Islanders have disagreed on contract terms. Back in 2011, Arthur Staple of Newsday reported the two sides were "fairly far apart all summer" long before Bailey signed in September for two years at a $1.05 million average salary.
That was clearly a win for the team and a "prove it" bridge deal for RFA Bailey. Did he use those two years to "prove it" and increase his value?
Granted, last season was the first in the NHL where he produced at a point-ever-other-game rate, but that's splitting hairs at a slight improvement in a lockout-shortened season.
At least from an NHL stat point of view (the kind of stats that are admissible in arbitration), the Bailey of 2013 looks a lot like the Bailey of 2011. His ice time did increase in 2012-13, up to 16:22 per game (versus 15:13 in 2011-12, which was a big dip from 17:50 in 2010-11), but while you could argue his importance has increased, you could also argue his production did not increase with that increased opportunity, which included a more stable role as a winger rather than as a center.
But what Bailey is awarded, if it comes to that, will be based on his official NHL statistics, injuries, "any special qualities of leadership" and comparables of other players who signed contracts as restricted free agents. Also of importance is whether the Islanders, as the party against whom salary arbitration was requested, choose to have a one-year (most likely) or two-year award.
When Will This Be?
Again, just because Bailey filed for arbitration does not mean the sides will go there. In the past, Matt Moulson signed just before his hearing, as did Blake Comeau in 2011. If the two sides are quibbling over various contract structures, Bailey was wise to protect himself and file for arbitration before today's deadline.
According to the CBA, in future years the window for salary arbitration hearings will be July 20 through Aug. 4. However, due to everything being pushed back this season after the lockout, the window for hearings this summer is July 22 to Aug. 6, with the last arbitration award being issued no later than Aug. 8.
Regardless, a team has 48 hours after an arbitration award to walk away from the ruling if the award issues is $3.5 million or more per year (so: really, really unlikely in Bailey's case).