PK-Subban-Montreal-Canadiens-Reebok-Premier-Replica-Home-NHL-Hockey-Jersey-N8751_XLUntil a player reaches unrestricted free agency all of the balls are in the court of NHL ownership when it comes to control of their hockey future except one area.  A player can ask for and receive salary arbitration.

There are rules but if a player thinks a team is giving him the financial shaft he can ask for an independent source to make the final decision.  If it gets to that, the judgment is binding.

The deadline to ask for arbitration is 5.00pm EDT July 5th..

Which brings us to the P.K. Subban negotiation.  At 5.00pm P.K. Subban or the Canadiens can ask to have a third party decide his short term worth to the Canadiens.

Here’s the way it works.  Subban and the Canadiens each propose a salary for next season and argue their case.  The side asking for arbitration can ask for either a one year or two year contract term.   The downside from Subban’s standpoint; the moment he accepts arbitration, he cannot accept an Offer Sheet from another team.  The arbitrator then sets his salary.  A decision must be made within 48 hours of the hearing. When the decision is announced, the team has the right to decline, or “walk away” from the award. If the team exercises this right, the player can declare himself an unrestricted free agent.

This is not the be all and end all.  Subban and the Canadiens can continue to negotiate right up to the date of  the hearing which usually takes place later in the month or early August.

In recent history we need only point at the Josh Gorges contract negotiation of three years ago.  Gorges had just come off an Andrei Markov style knee surgery.  The Canadiens were reluctant to hand Gorges a long term contract until they knew he was medically sound.  Gorges asked for arbitration after earning 1.3 million in the 2010-2011 season.  Before they got in front of the arbitrator, the two sides settled on a 2.5 million dollar one year contract.  It was clear that Gorges’ knee problems were behind him and the Canadiens subsequently signed him to a six year contract at 3.9 million per season.  It is the remaining four years of that contract that was traded to Buffalo earlier this week.

It’s seems evident that Subban is not going to get an Offer Sheet.  The next step is an arbitration request.  If he doesn’t accept it, negotiations continue.  If there is no decision by training camp, Subban can hold out as he did prior to the lockout shortened 2012 season.  That is not desirable.  So we continue with hockey’s version of brinksmanship.

My guess is; there will be a deal.  There are a number of paths to take to reach the ultimate conclusion, but there will be a deal.


If you really want to wade through the rules surrounding salary arbitration, here are the clauses in the NHL/NHLPA collective bargaining agreement.


Article 10.2:

(B) Notwithstanding the foregoing, if a Group 2 Player requests salary arbitration, or a Club requests salary arbitration, pursuant to Article 12, such Player will not be eligible to negotiate with any Club other than his Prior Club or sign an Offer Sheet pursuant to this Article 10, except as provided in Sections 12.3(a) and 12.10.

Article 12.9:

The party against whom a salary arbitration election was filed (i.e., the Club in Player-elected salary arbitration and the Player in Club-elected salary arbitration) shall elect in its brief whether the salary arbitration award shall be for a one or two-year SPC. Failure to make such an election shall be deemed to constitute an election for a one-year SPC. Notwithstanding the foregoing: (i) the Club or the Player, as the case may be, shall be entitled to elect only a one- year SPC if the Player is within one (1) year of attaining the age and experience level required for Group 3 Player status; and (ii) if the Player has attained or is within one (1) year of attaining the experience level required for Group 5 Player status and the Club has elected a two-year SPC, the Player may, at the end of the first year of such SPC, elect to void the second year of the SPC if the Player’s Paragraph 1 NHL Salary for the first League Year of such SPC is less than the Average League Salary for such League Year and, upon making such election, such Player shall (if he otherwise qualifies at such time) become a Group 5 Player and be entitled to the rights set out in Section 10.1(b).

Article 12.10:

(a) If a Club has elected to arbitrate a one-year SPC, and the award issued is for $3,500,000 or more per annum, then the Club may, within forty-eight (48) hours after the award of the Salary Arbitrator is issued (or, if a Club has any other Player still eligible for salary arbitration at that time and for whom a decision has not been rendered by a Salary Arbitrator at that time, and the Club still has a walk-away right available to it in such League Year pursuant to paragraph (c) below, forty-eight (48) hours after the award of the Salary Arbitrator for such other Player is issued or that Player’s salary arbitration case is settled), notify the Player or his Certified Agent, if any, the NHLPA and the NHL in writing, in accordance with Exhibit 3 hereof, that it does not intend to tender to the Player an SPC based on the award as determined by the Salary Arbitrator. Upon receipt of that notice, the Player shall automatically be deemed to be an Unrestricted Free Agent.