The NHLPA released of 21 names of players that elected salary arbitration over last weekend. On the list is Mark Fraser (but we knew that already) and Carl Gunnarsson. Gunnarsson is a much more important piece to the Toronto Maple Leafs than Fraser, and I don’t expect those two parties to make it to arbitration and will likely settle for something longer term.
Many people noted that Karl Alzner’s 4-year, $11.2-million deal that was signed earlier this week (which averages out to $2.8-million) was positive for the Leafs. Gunnarsson and Alzner are good comparable players. Despite Alzner’s junior hockey reputation, he’s sort of established himself as a one-way defenceman, much like Gunnarsson, concentrating on the less expensive but just as valuable defensive aspects of the game.
Gunnarsson has slightly more offensive upside but is less durable. I don’t think I’ve written about what I think he’d get, but Mirtle had him pegged at $2.75-million, which seems reasonable given the Alzner contract.
Couple of arbitration notes… though Jeff Angus’ recent experience seems to suggest otherwise, Derek Marr at Backhand Shelf last summer wrote “to debunk one common mistake, plus-minus has been abandoned by arbitrators. As have hits, blocked shots, giveaways and takeaways”…
Basically all the stats we mock for their inconsistency are not even considered. How the actual comparisons work is crazy simple. For forwards and offensive defensemen, arbitrators will usually just rank the players based on points per game. For defensive defensemen, they rank them based on time on ice. This sounds dumb, but by the time they get to this part, the list of players has been narrowed down to five or six players. To get this list of players, they will use a filter to get the closest matches. It’s usually players around 10-25% of that player’s points per game the last season, time on ice, penalty minutes, and career games played. Occasionally shorthanded time on ice and powerplay time on ice will be used as well.
So that’s good when looking at the Fraser case.
For Gunnarsson, while I’m sure both him and the Leafs would rather hammer something out long-term, arbitration deals are usually for one season. For a two-year award, the player gets to opt-out of Year 1 and elect unrestricted free agency. While the long-term option is attractive, given Gunnarsson’s health issues this season I’d be a little wary of giving him a contract that eats up multiple UFA years. It wouldn’t be a disaster if this actually wound up going through.
The Leafs can only walk away from the award if it’s more than $3.5-million. Gunnarsson would have to have some pretty good lawyers to get a salary that much higher than Alzner’s.