The NHL’s Salary Arbitration Process

Recently around 30 players in the NHL filed for salary arbitration, so what does that mean? Before a player has served 7 years in the league and they are an RFA they can opt for salary arbitration. Salary arbitration is a unique process in which both sides, the NHL team and the player and his agent, appeal to the salary arbitrator. Usually its an awkward experience and can ruin relationships with players and management.

Before the meeting happens both sides are required to submit a brief to the arbitrator, in these briefs the side who had arbitration filed against them gets to decide if the arbitration contract will be for a one or two-year deal. The briefs also include each sides’ desired salary number

The sides get to explain why they value the player sides present their evidence which includes stats, value to the team, the players NHL service time. In this meeting agents often use comparable contracts but those contracts can only be ones signed by other RFA’s. Each side gets 90 minutes to make their arguments and then each side also gets a 10 minute rebuttal.

After the hearing the arbitrator is tasked with deciding the amount the player will earn for the season. Within 48 hours of the hearing the arbitrator will e-mail both sides letting them know of the decision. The decision includes the yearly salary if there are any minor league options and the length of the contract.

Once the arbitrator has issued their decision the team then must decide what to do. If the contract awarded is less than the league’s $4 million dollar salary arbitration minimum then the team has to sign the player. If the contract is over the $4 million mark then the team can walk away and the player becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Written By: Tyler Smith (@tylersmith4386)

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