Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How much will Mason Raymond get for arbitration?

News broke today that the Canucks have taken Mason Raymond to 'cut-down' arbitration this year; this is a bit of a misnomer. The term is new because it's something the team was able to do in place of giving Raymond a qualifying offer; it doesn't mean that they will automatically get or even argue that he deserves a contract under last year's $2.6m.

Article 12.3(a) of the CBA reads:
(a) Club-Elected Salary Arbitration For Players With Paragraph 1 NHL Salaries plus Signing, Roster, and Reporting Bonuses Greater Than $1,500,000 In The Prior League Year.

(i) If a Player who is otherwise eligible to receive a Qualifying Offer and become a Group 2 Restricted Free Agent had a Paragraph 1 NHL Salary plus Signing, Roster and Reporting Bonuses in excess of $1,500,000 in the aggregate in the final League Year of his most recent SPC, a Club may elect to file for salary arbitration to
determine the Player's Paragraph 1 Salary for the upcoming League Year in lieu of making a Qualifying Offer to such Player.
(ii) In any salary arbitration that takes place pursuant to this Section 12.3(a), the Salary Arbitrator may not award the Player a Paragraph 1 Salary that is less than eighty-five (85) percent of the aggregate sum of Player's Paragraph 1 Salary plus Signing, Reporting and Roster Bonuses in the final League Year of his most
recent SPC.
So, all this does is move the range of possible contract awards Raymond could get. How much will he earn?

NHL salary arbitration decisions are very focused on finding 'comparable players' to the player in question. Arbitrators give the greatest weight to players with similar stats (especially points per game) and attributes to the player being evaluated; they will only consider players who also signed their contracts with RFA rights (so entry-level or UFA players are irrelevant). There has been some mention of the recent new deals for Chris Kelly and David Jones; though those are similar players in some ways, their contracts are irrelevant to the arbitrator. Whenever possible, the arbitrator will prefer to compare against contracts signed this same off-season.

So, who are the RFA-eligible players this year? Capgeek has a handy list here. Some standout names that will be comparables for Raymond:

Nik Kulemin: $2.2m last year. 0.40 PPG last year, 0.50 career. Perhaps Raymond's best comp in many dimensions.

(for reference, Raymond had 0.36 PPG last year and 0.48 career)

Chris Stewart: $3.25m last year. 0.38 PPG last year, 0.61 career. Like Raymond and Kulemin, had a down year after being more productive previously.

A lot will depend on how contracts shake out for those guys. The list also includes some well-paid guys including Blake Comeau and Sergei Kostitsyn, two more former standouts who have fallen on hard times. Certainly, I think Kulemin and Stewart are a little better than Raymond; Comeau and Kostitsyn might be a little worse. An early guess, I'd say, is that he'll end up with a small raise on $2.6m, but I'm not totally sure. I'll cover this in more depth in the coming days - the picture would change if one of these players also has their club file for 'cutdown' arbitration. More to come.

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