Explaining Salary Arbitration

NHL And Salary Arbitration …. 

Wednesday, July 10 at 4 pm is the deadline for Restricted Free Agents filing for salary arbitration.  Jets players on this list are defenceman Zach Bogosian and forwards Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little. 

I will try to simplify the the whole salary arbitration process down to these basic points to make it a little easier to understand.

This process is used by Restricted Free Agents because it is one of the few bargaining options available to them.

In the simplest terms NHL salary arbitration is a tool available to settle some contract disputes.  The player and team each propose a salary for the coming season and argue their cases at a hearing. The arbitrator, a neutral third party, then sets the player’s salary.

Blake Wheeler

Winnipeg Jets RFA Blake Wheeler

Some Salary Arbitration Basics 

Most players must have four years of NHL experience before they are eligible for salary arbitration (the term is reduced for those who signed their first NHL contract after the age of 20).

The deadline for players to request salary arbitration this year is July 10, with cases heard in late July and early August.

Players and team can continue to negotiate up until the date of the hearing, in hopes of agreeing on a contract and avoiding the arbitration process.

Teams can also ask for salary arbitration.  A player can be taken to arbitration only once in his career and can never receive less than 85 per-cent of his previous year’s salary.  There are no such restrictions on the number of times a player can ask for arbitration or the size of the salary awarded.

A decision must be made within 48 hours of the hearing.  When the decision is announced, the team has the right to decline, or “walk away” from the award.  If the team exercises this right, the player can declare himself an unrestricted free agent.

The evidence that can be used in arbitration case:

1.  The player’s “overall performance” including statistics in all previous seasons.

2.  Injuries, illnesses and the number of games played.

3.  The player’s length of service with the team and in the NHL.

4.  The player’s “overall contribution” to the team’s success or failure.

5.  The player’s “special qualities of leadership or public appeal.”

6.  The performance and salary of any player alleged to be “comparable” to the player in the dispute.


Evidence that is not admissible:

1.  The salary and performance of a “comparable” player who signed a contract as an unrestricted free agent.

2.  Testimonials, video and media reports.

3.  The financial state of the team.

4.  The salary cap and the state of the team’s payroll.



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