Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY SPORTS
Arbitration hearings are bloodbaths. In fact, the entire concepts is a little insane. Teams down in a room with players and agents and an arbitrator sits and watches while management explains that the player is about as useful to them as a frying pan made of ice, while the other side argues that he’s the second coming of Gretzky.
All so a person can decide how much they deserve to be paid, and suddenly, they’re best friends again. Anyway, given the competitive nature of these cases, let’s set the scene for Toronto’s first hearing of the week, Peter Holland.
Brendan Shanahan – Lou Lamoriello – Brandon Pridham
Kyle Dubas – Mark Hunter
Healthy Scratch: Cliff Fletcher
“It’s just a slight overpayment, things will be fine!” well, they still generally are, but the Leafs are starting to get into Pridham hours as far as flexibility for this season. Toronto has roughly $2.4 million in Cap Space to sign Holland, Martin Marincin, Frank Corrado, and a backup goalie (who we suspect will be Jhonas Enroth, but could every well end up just be Garret Sparks starting the year up top).
Toronto’s offer to Holland is $900,000, which is low enough to send him to the AHL if need be. Given what they’re allowed to talk about in a hearing, the Leafs’ arguments against him will likely involve his stagnating point production, his -16 rating (a useless stat, but still the worst among Leafs forwards), and the fact that over half of his goals came via the powerplay.
If they want to get silly about it, they’ll try to spin his career-low 6.5% shooting percentage as proof that he wasn’t trying hard enough.
A key part of their argument will involve his desirability, which they appeared to show this week when they placed him on waivers, seemingly to prove that no team would take him on for free. Now, that’s a very calculated move, seeing as teams aren’t exactly claiming depth players in July, especially ones that they’d have to prepare an arbitration case against 72 hours later. But on the surface, it looks important, and they’ll lean on that.
Joe Resnick (agent)
The player’s lineup is a little bit less filled up, as it always is. But Holland has a lot at stake here. The 25-year-old has yet to have a payday in his NHL career, having signed an ELC with low bonuses and spending a significant amount of those three years in the AHL. His second contract wasn’t particularly mind-blowing either, coming in at $775,000 a year. That’s more than most of us will ever make, but given the higher cost of living when you’re always travelling and the limited career length that a pro athlete has, you need to make the most of every opportunity you get, especially as a depth player.
As such, Holland is looking to make above AHL burial level for the first time in his career, looking for $2 million. That’s a pretty reasonable ask, given that a player of his approximate calibre paces out to make about $2.2 million at this stage of the game.
Holland has a few things to work with to plead his case. Arbitrators can only accept data-based information that is tracked by the NHL, and while that negates a bunch of what we’d use here, entry level possession and zone start data can be used. Holland was a +1% relative Corsi-For Percentage player for Toronto last year and was so despite starting fewer than half his shifts in offensive situations.
He’ll also have the opportunity to argue about variance being at odds with his success. Only Nazem Kadri saw more goals disappear due to a below-the-norm shooting percentage; I projected Holland to be at about nine goals lost last year. Since PDO can be used (under a different name), he can point out that the entire team shot at a freakishly low 5.4% with him on the ice and that the goalies weren’t much better, bringing him to a rather unlikely to repeat 96.3%, uhh, “SPSV%”.
You are allowed to use personal brand to an extent in these talks too; while I’d probably argue from the team’s side that nobody from Caledon can market themselves as a “local boy” seeing as nobody in Toronto actually knows where Caledon is, he’s still been used as a team representative for a ton of community events and at last year’s development camp, which can be seen as him having off-ice value.
How This Ends Up
Ultimately, the biggest case that the Leafs have for wanting to keep Holland’s dollars down is something that they can’t use in the room, which is the fact that they have an abundance of equally or more talent forwards who are going to steal minutes from him, meaning that one shouldn’t expect much from him next year.
So, unless they plan on settling before their hearing, they’re going to have to see this through as if he’s a regular roster player. At that point, it’s hard to imagine that any ruling would be terrible for the team, given his comparables. Even if the two sides split down the middle at 1.45 million, that would be good enough value as long as he plays.
No time is publicly known for the hearing, though we do know that it will happen in Toronto today, unless a settlement were to occur.