It is one of the most awkward parts of sports: salary arbitration. When a player and team can’t agree on a contract for the upcoming season, they head to an independent party to determine a fair salary based on past performance and comparable player precedent.
The team argues why the player should not get what they are asking for. They explain to the arbitrator why the player is not worth what they ask for, citing their flaws and shortcomings.
Awkward? I’d think so.
According to Mike Hoffman? Nah.
The Ottawa Senators went to a much publicized arbitration hearing with Hoffman, offering $1.75 million. Hoffman countered with $3.4 million. Last Monday, the arbitrator decided Hoffman would earn $2 million this season on a one-year deal.
For a 25-year old who notched 25 goals last year, $2 million seems light, but Hoffman didn’t seem to have any hard feelings when asked about the process.
From an article on NHL.com, Hoffman said, “I didn’t take it too bad. We still have a good relationship with management and everything. I don’t think any negativity came from arbitration.”
For the Senators, this attitude is music to their ears. The last thing any team needs is a player sulking after arbitration or contract disputes. The best thing for both sides is for Hoffman to come into camp with a chip on his shoulder to prove to the Senators that his next contract will need to be much higher. He’ll get more money and the Senators will get great production from a young player.
Along with Hoffman, forward Alex Chiasson went to arbitration. In his case, the Senators offered $1 million and Chiasson asked for $2.475 million. Again, the arbitrator sided with the Senators and awarded him a contract of $1.2 million.
Compared to the figures the players submitted, the Senators saved almost $3 million, which can be used on another player. Though it’s not a perfect process, salary arbitration is a necessary evil and can benefit both the player and team in some cases. In both these cases, it favored the team.
There has been some suggestion that the NHL should implement an arbitration system much like the one in Major League Baseball. Currently, the two sides each submit a number, and the arbitrator chooses a figure between the two.
In the MLB’s system, the arbitrator is forced to choose between one offer or the other. This encourages both sides to be more reasonable in their demands.
It was highly publicized that the Toronto Maple Leafs offered the lowest possible amount to Jonathan Bernier, which would have meant a pay cut for the goaltender. The arbitrator wouldn’t have ever picked that amount, so Toronto would have been forced to make a more competitive offer or find themselves at the mercy of overpaying if Bernier submitted an inflated, yet reasonable, number.
As long as the player doesn’t let these negotiations affect his attitude towards the team or his effort level, arbitration isn’t a big deal and is forgotten pretty quickly. While many like to watch the games as fans, at the end of the day, it is a business.