This afternoon, the National Hockey League Players Association announced that 23 players have elected and filed for salary arbitration. I believe all 23 are currently restricted free agents. The two from the New Jersey Devils certainly are: defensemen Eric Gelinas and Adam Larsson.
The long and short of salary arbitration means is that a third party - an arbitrator - would hear the player's and team's arguments on what the player's next contract should be and make a decision. There are limits as to what can be presented as evidence and typically the player has to accept the result. Such a hearing can easily damage a player's relationship as they hear first-hand how their team values the player, usually less than what they believe. Past examples of Devils players going to arbitration usually end with the player leaving in one way or another. I highlighted that history when Travis Zajac did it in 2009. So there's something to be concerned about, right?
Based on recent history, not really. The damage that can come from an arbitration hearing happens assuming the hearing actually does happen. If the team and player can agree to a contract and sign it before their scheduled date, then there is no hearing. There's no arbitration. There's no problem. Recent practice has shown that a player will file for arbitration to force the team's hand in making a deal. That's what happened with Zajac in 2009 and Zach Parise in 2011. It's rare that the actual hearing takes place and a new contract is awarded by an arbitrator these days.
Therefore, there's no need to panic with respect to the futures of Gelinas and Larsson. Both filing for arbitration means they want a deal to be made in the coming weeks. Ray Shero and their respective agents will continue discussion. The only time to get worried about arbitration is if they actually go through with it. Per the end of the NHLPA's announcement, there's a window of time arbitration hearings: July 20 through August 4. They'll reveal when Gelinas' and Larsson's hearing will be at a later date. Consider that to be a deadline of sorts for a new contract.
Ultimately, Larsson, Gelinas, and most of the other 21 players filed for arbitration in order to incentivize getting a deal done. Again, it's rare in recent years for a hearing to actually happen, so I'm confident Shero will lock up both defenders by then. Do you think both Gelinas and Larsson will be signed before their arbitration hearings (still TBA)? What would you sign them for? (I answered it for Gelinas here, I'll do it for Larsson next.) Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this development in the comments. Thank you for reading.