Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

NHL Aribitration To Find New Home, Franchise Tag Coming?

NHL salary arbitration seems to be going the way of the beast, as players and teams try to avoid the expensive and sometimes de-characterizing process.

Arbitration is a simple case, when teams and certain classes of players can’t agree on a contract – they use a third party arbitrator to decide on the cost of the contract.

Players use the conference room to overvalue themselves – telling the owners exactly why they deserve to get a big payday.  Teams on the other hand use the process to devalue players, tear them to shreds, and basically tell them that they are dog meat players lucky enough to be considered professionals.

With the salary cap woes in the National Hockey League – teams having to get under a lower cap – and for sure uncertainty of what is going to happen with future salary caps in the National Hockey League – will players push for a strong arbitration process in their favor during the next round of collective bargaining agreements?

As it stands now – it is the fringe players, third and fourth line role players that are using the arbitration process.  Wouldn’t Cody Hodgson love to have a contract handed to him at the hands of an arbitrator – he certainly wants to be paid like a top six forward for the Buffalo Sabres – as he is the only clear number one center on the team, but will be facing threats from prospects Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons at this upcoming training camp.  Can the two of them impress enough to take the number one job away from CoHo?  If he doesn’t have a deal in place they most certainly have a good chance of stealing minutes away from the Sabres top pivot man who remains unsigned.

Teams aren’t going to want to have a stronger arbitration process, and are going to want something in return if the NHLPA pushes hard enough on the issue and get it worked into the next collective bargaining agreement.

Will we see the advent of the franchise tag in the National Hockey League? Certainly the Buffalo Sabres would benefit from franchising a star player to keep him in the fold.  While it wouldn’t have saved the Danny Briere/Chris Drury problem – it would have kept one of them in Buffalo at a minimum.  Would the Sabres consider slapping the tag on either Ryan Miller or Thomas Vanek – keeping one of them in the Nickel City long beyond when they actually want to be in town?

I can definitely see the franchise tag being brought into the National Hockey League, especially with the threat of free agency looming for National Hockey League players sooner rather than later.  It might even keep players like CoHo from leaning away from bridge contracts.

I could see a limited franchise tag working in the National Hockey League – but only in the case where a guy has only been through one RFA period.  With the threat of a franchise tag looming, Cody Hodgson would actually benefit from signing that bridge deal, and go through the RFA process a second time – because the team couldn’t use the franchise tag on him.

As it stands, players want to get to free agency as quickly as possible, and Hodgson is most likely looking for a  deal that will let him test the open market upon completion of the deal.  With just a little to prove on a team that is going nowhere fast, this deal for Hodgson could put him on the map to be a true number one center for any team in the league in need of such a player, or provide a contender with a one two punch – similar to what the Buffalo Sabres had when Drury and Briere rolled the double threat in Buffalo.

The NHLPA is going to ask for more come the next CBA talks with the NHL.  Sure its several years away (it will go fast though hockey fans).  It is almost better to have a Sheldon Cooper-like end of the world scenario plan – with emergency supplies tucked into neat corners of your living quarters all the time; then to be caught off guard when the NHL locks out again.

Arbitration gets refined so players get the payday they think they deserve, and teams get the franchise tag so they are not constantly losing free agents to other teams.

Currently only restricted free agents can apply for arbitration, and they had to have done so by July 5th.  Players must have a minimum of four years (shorter for players who sign their first deal after the age of 20).  Teams can only take a player to arbitration once, players can request the process as many times as they want so long as they are qualified.

After the next CBA – let players entering their first RFA period sign up for arbitration – but some how tie the franchise tag into it.  Players can be franchise tagged after their first contract, but only players under the age of 28 (don’t like 28 – use 25).  Players that use arbitration or get tagged as franchise players don’t get two way contracts, its the NHL or bust for these guys.  Make it interesting, guys who get tagged as franchise players, remain restricted free agents unless they sign with their team, they hold out – then the franchise tag values remain, and they can sign an offer sheet with another team at their franchise value – but they have to pay the offer sheet penalty to the team that tagged the player.

Sure it wouldn’t have saved Daniel Alfredsson from defecting to the Detroit Red Wings for the final years of his NHL career, but it might prevent that key core player from leaving in his prime.

Hopefully Bettman/Daly and their NHL counterparts are looking into the future as well, to avoid another work stoppage.

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