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The NHL's Buyout and Arbitration Window

There is some confusion, as there usually is with the CBA, about when NHL buyouts could begin. But the CBA clearly states in 13(c)(i) that they may begin "the later of June 15 or 48 hours after the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Finals and ending at 5 p.m. New York time on June 30." With Game 7 tonight, Friday (or Saturday a.m., in case of quintuple OT) is when teams can begin Yashin-ing their oopsies.

Chris Drury is the hot buyout topic of the moment. Buried AHLers like Sheldon Souray and Mike Commodore are also candidates.

This date is also CBA-significant because teams intending to take players to salary arbitration instead of giving them a qualifying offer must do so by this deadline. Zach Parise is a candidate here. (For players, the deadline to elect for salary arbitration is July 5. Because there's always a catch, teams can take players who refuse their qualifying offers to arbitration, and must signal such between 5 p.m. July 5 and July 6.)

Do the Islanders have any candidates in this discussion? Technically yes. Not so much in the buyout department, but their RFAs -- so many of whom have circumstances that make pegging their value difficult -- could have arbitration on the menu.

Why Aren't My RFAs All Signed?

People tend to worry about restricted free agent news this time of year, and all I can say is: Be patient. This is a process, and a negotiation -- and there are two sides to every negotiation.

There are a lot of moving parts between June and July that can alter your strategy. One is the fact not all 30 teams are done playing, so not everyone is fully in off-season mode, while everyone is fully in draft mode. The draft comes first, then RFA qualifying offers (which usually include mandatory 5-10% raises) are due by the end of the month, then comes unrestricted free agency July 1, with the second arbitration window July 5.

So the Islanders could have qualifying offers out to all of their RFAs (or the ones they want to keep, anyway), but for some that's a procedural step on the conversation to a bigger raise or a longer commitment.

Here is how a player become eligible for arbitration, the way Matt Moulson was last year (before settling pre-hearing):

First SPC Signing Age Minimum Level of Professional
Experience Required to be
Eligible for Salary Arbitration
18-20 4 years professional experience
21 3 years professional experience
22-23 2 years professional experience
24 and older 1 years professional experience

A Player aged 18 or 19 earns a year of professional experience by playing ten (10) or more NHL Games in a given season. A Player aged 20 or older (or who turns 20 between September 16 and December 31 of the calendar year in which he signs his first SPC) earns a year of professional experience by playing ten (10) or more Professional Games under an SPC in a given season.

At the bottom of this post are the factors that are admissible and not admissible in arbitration hearings.

With the caveat that determining age of signing and years experience is not a straight path, here's my reading:

  • Josh Bailey, with just three years experience and having signed at age 18, is not eligible. Neither is Ty Wishart, in a similar boat.
  • Blake Comeau, with four years experience, is eligible. So is Jack Hillen, who has three years now and signed at age 22.

None of this means anybody is or isn't going to arbitration. Sometimes these things take time. Sometimes agents and GMs disagree on value, and wait to see if other market variables become clear. Shortly after the Islanders reached deals with RFAs Kyle Okposo and Michael Grabner, Buffalo reached a four-year deal with Drew Stafford. Meanwhile, Brandon Dubinsky remains unsigned by the Rangers.

So stay tuned. At ninety-eight we all arbitrate.

I Wanna Buy Out All My Mistakes and Forget Last Night

This comes up every year, but before you think the Islanders can just buy their way out of players you don't like, consider the costs. A good tip: Use the CapGeek buyout calculator to see what is feasible and what isn't.

Looking at the Islanders right now, I see no real buyout candidates. All of their long-term deals are either recently signed or completely unrealistic to buy out at this time. It's sometimes suggested to consider Trent Hunter, coming off knee surgery with two years and $4 million left. But his deal is not exactly a burden on the books, and the player if diminished -- we'll see after surgery rehab -- is hardly the type of "problem" that usually elicits a buyout.

However, your mileage may vary.