directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Methot Arbitration

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Methot Arbitration


What's going on, fellow CBJ fans?! I am a new contributor to this site, and am excited to be a part of the LTL family (although I can't begin compete with our fearless LTL leader or even our famous, Jason-masked, fellow fan).

I will be contributing thoughts and ideas relating to the business and legal side of hockey and the Jackets. Having studied law at OSU (and at Oxford this winter... I will need all of your help to stay in the loop when I can't stay up until 3am to watch the start of the game on the internet), I hope I can answer some of the questions pertaining to the cap, the lease, the KHL, and anything else that comes up this season and beyond. While I am by no means an expert on all things sports law, I think I can offer a foundation on the "business" and “legalese” of the game and the team.

So enough of me. Without further adieu:

Salary Arbitration:

By now you have all read about the looming arbitration hearing for Marc Methot. There may be some questions about what this process actually entails, how it comes about, and what happens before, during and after the hearing.

Arbitration is simply a dispute resolution tool used by the NHL and the NHLPA to avoid the challenges involved in a drawn out court battle. Rather than going through the normal trial process, the NHL and NHLPA have essentially agreed to use an independent arbiter to create a binding settlement based on the arguments of the player and the team.

Under the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHLPA and the NHL, players are eligible for arbitration after four years in the league (before the lockout, it was three years). RFA’s meeting this experience requirement are the most players likely to choose the arbitration process, as they have the least bargaining power. While UFA’s can simply test their value on the open market, RFA’s are constricted in their options and thus frequently use the threat of arbitration to secure a better deal.

In addition, teams also can elect to bring a player to salary arbitration in specific instances. For example, a team can take a RFA who made over $1.5million in the prior year to arbitration rather than giving him a qualifying offer. Nevertheless, it is much more common for the player than for the team to elect for arbitration.

Once either the team or the player elects for arbitration, it is still not a given that they will attend a hearing. Rather, it is much more common that the threat of arbitration will bring each side to the table to hammer out a deal. Both sides do not generally enjoy the process, as it requires the team to argue against a player’s abilities and to describe their weaknesses. Thus, the player often uses the threat of arbitration as a negotiation tool rather than an actual device for a pay raise.

During the hearing (should it actually make it this far), each side presents their evidence. Evidence includes statistical proof of performance (goals, assists, minutes played, etc.), injury history, comparably salaried similar players, and even evidence of special leadership qualities. Evidence like that about a team’s financial stability or salary cap implications are not admissible.

A judgment by the arbitrator is not completely discretionary. For example, the arbitrator cannot award a player less than 85% of his previous year salary.

Upon hearing the arbitrator’s decision, the team has 48 hours to accept or decline the decision. If the team chooses to walk away from the award, the player becomes a UFA and is free to sign with any team.

What this means for Marc Methot:

According to various sources, Marc Methot made around $500,000 last year. This figure, in comparison to his production last season (4g, 13a, 17p, +7, over 17 minutes per game), clearly means that he will not have to worry about a decrease in salary.

If Methot actually makes it to an arbitration hearing because no deal can be worked out before he walks in the door, then it all comes down to the evidence presented. In a quick look for comparable players, I would estimate that Methot is awarded somewhere between $750,000-$950,000 per year. Unless something abnormal happens and based on that number (an additional cap hit this season of no more than $450,000), I would rest assured that Marc Methot will be back with the CBJ next year…

Unless we can get a puck-mover.


LTL said...

Absolutely fantastic first post Pucklaw!

Welcome aboard!!!


MattTheMask said...

Loved the post!!! Very informative and I like the details. Good to hear Methot will be back.

drb said...

Are you kidding me? This is the guy that publically embarassed the BJs last year by claiming he was good enough to be in the NHL, and if he didn't make the club, they should trade him to a club that would appreciate his awesome talent. He went on to turn the puck over so often that it began to seem like he was allergic to vulcanized rubber. Now, after a strictly mediocre season, he demands arbitration in pursuit of a stratospheric salary? There must be at least a dozen more talented defensemen available that would be far more productive than this marginally-effective journeyman with an acute case of overinflated ego. It's time we stopped subsidizing second-rate talent and used the money for someone with real skill.

JAL said...

Nice first post Pucklaw -- I concur with a lot of what you say.

Behind the scenes, I suspect that the CBJ might be wearing thin with Methot and his attitude. There was the well documented series of remarks as camp came to a close last year, and now this.

My gut in these situations is to blame the agent for setting unrealistic expectations, but in this case I think Methot is the one with the over-inflated version of his value.

1 year of consistent NHL time, and he is bitching already???? Please . . . He was good at times and amazingly mediocre much of the time. He benefitted from the fact that Backman was so awful.

Prediction: They go to arbitration, the Jackets accept a 1 year award, and he becomes part of a trade for an established blue liner within 2 weeks.

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