Only a few days after it was announced that Alexander Burmistrov had signed a two-year contract to join Ak-Bars Kazan of the KHL, the Winnipeg Jets have learned that five of their restricted free agents have now filed for salary arbitration.
Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, Zach Bogosian, Paul Postma and Eric Tangradi have each elected for arbitration before reaching today's 5:00PM EST deadline. The Jets' originally qualified thirteen of their RFA's on July 2, 2013 but have yet to reach new contracts with any of them.
In what was a lockout-shortened regular season, Wheeler finished second on the team in points (41), though he led the team in goals with nineteen. Little (32) and Bogosian (14) placed lower statistically but have both been integral parts to the rebuilding of this franchise thus far. Each are due raises on their current contracts, but it remains to be seen just how sizeable that stipend will be.
Arbitration hearings are set to take place in Toronto, ON between the two week period of July 22, 2013 to August 6, 2013 at which time the team and each player will attempt to settle the contract. Winnipeg still has the opportunity to sign each of the above-mentioned players before the arbitration period is reached.
Very often, players will sign with their club beforehand -- avoiding arbitration altogether -- as the proceedings can be less than pleasant. For example, James Mirtle describes the 2008 case of Washington Capitals defenceman Shaone Morrisonn who was raked over the coals by his General Manager, George McPhee:
"... the Capitals offered several less than flattering assessments of Morrisonn, a stay-at-home defenceman who was fourth on the team in ice time last season. Calling him "one-dimensional," Washington argued that Morrisonn received substantial playing time in 2005-06 and 2006-07 on a weak team as a result of being "at the right place at the right time."
While panic may seem to be setting in for some, this is but yet another piece of the bargaining puzzle known as restricted free agency and is merely a countermeasure to Kevin Cheveldayoff's initial offer-sheet phase. It's highly likely that some of these arbitration-elligible players will have new deals in place before having their day in court and for now all we can do is wait for the other shoe to drop.
We will continue to provide additional information as this story develops. Feel free to voice your opinion in the comments section below.