subban norrisUnless there’s a last minute breakthrough, P.K. Subban and the Canadiens appear ready to face Boston-based independent arbitrator Elizabeth Neumeier Friday morning in Toronto to settle Subban’s salary for the 2014-2015 season.

Neumeier was the arbitrator in the 2011 Nashville/Shea Weber arbitration in which Weber won a still standing record 7.5 million dollar contract.  (Neumeier, a member of the National Academy of Arbitratorswas the first woman to settle a sports arbitration case when she ruled against baseball’s Midre Cummings of the Boston Red Sox in 1999).

The hearing will take place in Toronto Friday morning at nine o’clock. Here is the evidence that can and cannot be used in arguing the respective cases.

The two sides are allowed to argue

  • Overall performance including career statistics.
  • Games played including absences for injury and illness.
  • Length of service both with the team and in the league.
  • Contribution to team success or failure.
  • Intangibles such as “leadership” and “fan popularity”.
  • “Comparables” – salaries of other players who are similar to Subban.

Not Open for Discussion

  • Salary or performance of comparable players who signed contracts as unrestricted free agents.
  • Outside testimonials such as newspaper columns, videotapes or press game reports.
  • The financial condition of the team, the league or the salary cap status.

Since it was Subban who asked for arbitration, here is the order of business.

(A) Subban, his agents and the NHLPA will make their case for an 8.5 million dollar one year contract.

(B) Marc Bergevin and the Canadiens will present their side of the issue and their reasons for believing Subban should be paid 5.25 million dollars.  (each side has a maximum of 90 minutes to present it’s case)

(C) rebuttal and closing argument from the Subban camp.

(D) rebuttal and closing argument from the Canadiens.

(E) surrebuttal by Subban and/or the NHLPA. (a ten minute period to address any new issues brought up by the Canadiens but not addressed in initial presentations)

After The Hearing

The Arbitrator’s decision on a one year contract must come within 48 hours of the close of the hearing, which means sometime around noon Sunday. The arbitrator will establish a salary figure on a one year contract that can come anywhere between the figures presented by Subban and the Canadiens.  Included in the decision will be a brief statement of the reasons for the decision and identification of the comparables relied upon to come to the salary figure.

After the Decision

The Canadiens have a 48 hour period in which they opt to “walk away” from the decision which would make Subban an unrestricted free agent.  It’s not going to happen.  Only nine times over the last fifteen years has a team exercised that right, the most notable being Chicago goaltender Antti Niemi only two months after winning the Stanley Cup in 2010.  At the time, the Blackhawks couldn’t fit the arbitrator-ordered 2.75 million under their salary cap.  The Boston Bruins also “walked” on a 2.5 million contract for defenseman Bryan Berard in 2003.  Elizabeth Neumeier, who will hear the Subban case, was also arbitrator in both of those cases.

The Record Setter

In 2011, the Nashville Predators initiated arbitration against defenseman Shea Weber mainly to prevent an outside offer sheet.  Weber asked for 8.5 million dollars, the Predators offered 4.75.  The arbitrator settled on 7.5 million dollars which remains the highest amount ever awarded.  At the time the 2011-12 salary cap had been set at 64.3 million dollars.