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Moulson Hearing Nears: 3 Routes in NHL arbitration

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The full list of NHL players scheduled for arbitration is at the NHLPA site, but three big ones are set this week in wingers Mason Raymond (Canucks, Monday), Blake Wheeler (Bruins, Tuesday) and our very own Matt Moulson (Islanders, Tuesday).

The usual caveats apply: As a rule, both player and team generally want to avoid this take-it-or-leave-it process and reach a contract on their own. But sometimes it's the team wanting a longer term deal at a discounted salary ("discount" in the sense of commitment in exchange for less than top dollar); while the player, unable to receive bids on the open market to find his going rate, would at least like a third party's opinion on how much a just-finished good season is worth. We could reasonably speculate that's the situation with the Isles and Moulson.

Sometimes the team fears a long-term commitment to a player and would rather take its chances on a one-year deal. If that one-year deal becomes too much, they can walk away -- they weren't comfortable keeping him for the long term anyway. You can bet that was the case with Clarke MacArthur, who was awarded $2.4 million(!) after a 16 goal, 35 point, minus-16 season with Buffalo and Atlanta. The Thrashers simply walked away; MacArthur hits the free agent market, where he's unlikely to attract that figure.

Elsewhere this month, the Flyers reached an agreement with Daniel Carcillo before his hearing date hit, while the Canucks Jannik Hansen's arbitration award was billed as a "big raise" by TSN, but in reality a useful 24-year-old Dane getting a raise from a two-way deal at league minimum to his one-way $825,000 arbitration award is not that crazy.

But those represent the three possible roads for Moulson:

He and the Isles can announce an agreement before the hearing Tuesday morning; the Isles can accept his one-year award and then get another year of data on him in 2010-11 as he heads toward free agency; or -- the unlikely option in this case -- the Isles could walk away from the award, making him a free agent.

We discussed the spectrum of comparables for this very unique case when Moulson first filed, and one interesting suggestion came up in comments from HugoAgogo, who brought up Mikhail Grabovski's $2.9 million RFA deal signed a couple of years ago at age 25.

But a guy who bursts on to the scene with 30 goals in his first full season at age 26 is simply hard to peg. And in a world where arbitrators award Clarke MacArthur $2.4 million, your guess is as good as mine.

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As a reminder for those playing at home, here is a basic list of what criteria can enter into an arbitration hearing and decision:

Admissible Evidence

  • The player's "overall performance" including statistics in all previous seasons.
  • Injuries, illnesses and the number of games played.
  • The player's length of service with the team and in the NHL.
  • The player's "overall contribution" to the team's success or failure.
  • The player's "special qualities of leadership or public appeal."
  • The performance and salary of any player alleged to be "comparable" to the player in the dispute.
  • The salary cap and the state of the team's payroll.

Evidence that is Not Admissible:

  • The salary and performance of a "comparable" player who signed a contract as an unrestricted free agent.
  • Testimonials, video and media reports.
  • The financial state of the team.