Rocco Grimaldi is set for his arbitration hearing on Aug. 4 to work towards a new contract and keep the winger with the Nashville Predators for the foreseeable future. Grimaldi and the Predators seemed extremely keen to get a new deal done immediately following a surprising playoff performance from the California native last season. He scored three goals in the five postseason games he played, which led the team in the first-round series against the Dallas Stars.
It is no secret that the Predators are operating extremely close to the salary cap, with roughly $2.33 million left for the upcoming season. Although Grimaldi will not cost that much, general manager David Poile will want as much of a deal as he can get. Teams have the option of leaving the deal on the table, so to speak, and walking away when players are awarded $3.5 million or more, meaning they do not have pay the player, which immediately makes the player an unrestricted free agent.
The arbitration process can be a handy tool for both players and teams. Players can use the process when they feel they are worth more than what they are being offered, and GMs can exercise arbitration to kick-start stalled negotiations.
Grimaldi Utilizes Arbitration Option
In this instance, it was Grimaldi who filed for arbitration, which could mean he feels he has not been offered a fair market value.
According to Nashville radio station 104.5 The Zone, Poile offered Grimaldi “a couple of different contracts during the season, but Grimaldi chose arbitration.”
However, even though arbitration can be useful and sometimes necessary, the Predators and Grimaldi should do everything in their power to avoid using the process. Arbitration can be a real hassle, the hearings are held in Toronto and parties are responsible for their own expenses as well as splitting the arbitrator’s fees. But, the main reason why it would be better for the two sides to come together on an agreement before the Aug. 4 hearing is due to the arguments both parties have to present to the arbitrator that supports the figure they feel the player is worth.
No Hard Feelings?
The NHL is a business, and although many players state that they understand this premise, it can still lead to hurt feelings when a GM is presenting evidence as to why they are not the player they think they are. It can hurt a lot more for players like Grimaldi who sacrifice their body all season and do everything they can to make the team successful.
As it’s been mentioned, Grimaldi had a great postseason and was actually the lone bright spot for the Predators during a disastrous first-round match-up. But, now the speedy winger may have to sit across from management and hear all the things about his game that are not great and actually devalue him.
Grimaldi registered 13 points in 53 NHL games last season and finished with a minus-two rating. Now Grimaldi isn’t going to argue he should be paid like an MVP or Maurice “Rocket” Richard contender. But, there are several players that produced the same amount of points as Grimaldi in a similar amount of games and were paid close to what Grimaldi earned last season. Michael Amadio, Brett Seney and Drew Stafford all recorded 13 points last season in 57 games or fewer and made from $700,000 to $810,000.
Looking at players who recorded more points than Grimaldi in a similar amount of games, such as Travis Boyd, Nic Dowd and Daniel Sprong, their average annual values were $750,000 to $800,000. It may be hard for Grimaldi’s team to argue that his value should hit or exceed $1 million. The 25-year-old made $650,000 last year, and considering how eager Poile and management seemed to re-sign Grimaldi, it’s hard to believe they were playing “hard-ball” on a $150,000 raise. Meaning it is quite possible that maybe the $1 million salary was a number Grimaldi had in mind.
There are a lot of rules regarding what is and isn’t admissible when presenting a case. But, these comparable players could give a sense of what Grimaldi is worth in today’s NHL and possibly what Poile is looking to secure Grimaldi for.
Bruised Egos Galore
Being 5-foot-6, Grimaldi has always had to prove that he is not too small to play in the league, and after spending the majority of his career in the AHL he plays like he has something to prove. Watching the former second-round pick, he obviously gives everything he has every shift, possibly not knowing if his next NHL game will be his last. The Predators will need that same play from Grimaldi again next season as he’s shown he can be an “X-factor.” Yes, he will likely always play with that “chip on his shoulder,” because that’s the type of player he is, but it can be really difficult to give it 100 percent every shift after hearing the type of harsh criticism that can come up during these arbitration hearings.
The Predators and Grimaldi’s camp still have a few days to strike a deal if they want to avoid arbitration. But, if they go ahead and let an arbitrator make the decision for them, maybe Grimaldi will be able to take the criticism with a pinch of salt, maybe he will be able to accept that this is just business. But, maybe he won’t see it that way, it’s something to think about after hearing some of the horror stories from past arbitration hearings. The then Phoenix Coyotes labeled Mike Johnson as the “worst forward in the league” in their meeting and the Vancouver Canucks likened Brendan Morrison to “a mouse who was carried across a river by two elephants,” those being his linemates, Todd Bertuzzi and Markus Naslund.
Poile doesn’t seem like the character who would hurl insults for the sake of saving some change. But, whatever may be said, is it worth the risk of causing future friction with a player who is not going to break the bank at his most expensive and who could be that “X-factor” and a secondary scoring threat?
I graduated from Mount Royal University with a degree in Journalism with the hopes to pursue a career in sports media. I have been following hockey for many years at various different levels. Whether playing, watching or writing about it, hockey has played a massive role in my life. I was the sports editor at The Calgary Journal as well as a sports columnist for The Calgary Reflector. Follow on Twitter: @A_Grant27