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Wednesday's notes: SK74's journey to a new contract

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ATLANTA GA - DECEMBER 06:  Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Atlanta Thrashers battles for the puck against Sergei Kostitsyn #74 of the Nashville Predators at Philips Arena on December 6 2010 in Atlanta Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA GA - DECEMBER 06: Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Atlanta Thrashers battles for the puck against Sergei Kostitsyn #74 of the Nashville Predators at Philips Arena on December 6 2010 in Atlanta Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Getty Images

With Sergei Kostitsyn filing for salary arbitration yesterday, I thought it might be worthwhile to review the steps involved here:

  • The first important date is this Friday, when an arbitrator will rule on the NHLPA's grievance over Nashville's restricted free agents. If he rules in their favor, then SK74 and the rest could be immediately declared unrestricted free agents, and they hit the broader market.
  • If the Predators win, SK74 remains an RFA, and they can continue to negotiate.
  • The salary arbitration hearing takes place sometime late July through mid-August. Each side is allowed to present their case, including relevant statistics, and comparable contracts signed by other restricted free agents around the league. That means for the purpose of arbitration, the UFA deals we've seen this summer (Joel Ward, etc.) are not relevant to the discussion.
  • The team gets to choose whether the term of the new contract is for one or two seasons. That's because the player elected to file for arbitration. In Shea Weber's case, since the team filed for arbitration, he gets to make the one- vs. two-year call.
  • After the hearing, the arbitrator has 48 hours to issue his ruling. The team and player can continue negotiating, if they like, all the way up until that ruling gets handed down. Quite often, you'll see deals struck right before the arbitration hearing begins.
  • Since SK74's is a player-elected arbitration, the team has the right to walk away from the result (as long as the salary is over $1 million, which this one surely will be) if they deem it too expensive, making the player an unrestricted free agent immediately.
  • UPDATE: One additional point I overlooked is that because this case is on the track towards arbitration, Kostitsyn is no longer open to receiving Offer Sheets from other teams. Blueshirt Banter pointed this out in a discussion of their RFA's, and I confirmed it after digging through the CBA.

Keep in mind that the vast majority of these situations get settled before the arbitration hearing ever occurs. Arbitration can be an ugly business between player and team, and is a situation few parties really want to get into.

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