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What does binding arbitration mean?

Jacob Trouba has his arbitration meeting today so what does this all mean?

Vegas Golden Knights v Winnipeg Jets - Game One Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Winnipeg Jets and Jacob Trouba are entering binding arbitration today. This means a few different things, but it does not mean that Trouba will be signing a deal awarded by the arbitrator when his decision is announced.

Trouba and the Jets have both submitted their asks. Trouba asked for $7 million on a one to two year contract and the Jets asked for $4 million. This does not mean that the Jets think that Trouba is a four million dollar defenceman or that Trouba sees himself as a seven million dollar defenceman. Instead, these are the starting points of a negotiation essentially as the arbitrator usually splits the ask fairly evenly. Any award over $3.5 million can be walked away from unless it is club-elected arbitration because the club cannot walk away from that at all. All awards are for one or two years and the length is decided upon by the party who did not file for arbitration unless the player is one year from UFA as there can only be a one year contract awarded then.

The Jets and Trouba can enter arbitration tomorrow and still sign a contract before the arbitration verdict is announced. This most famously happened with P.K. Subban and the Montreal Canadiens back in the day. The Jets and Trouba could also simply delay the arbitration time by a few hours if they are very close to a deal; this sometimes happens because teams and players do not like going into the hearings because they can get tense as both sides are trying to “win”.

Arbitration is a negotiation tool. It is a means to the end. It means that Trouba will be at camp come September. Teams use arbitration to protect from offer sheets (see Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens again). There is a good chance we will have a contract announcement sometime today. If we do not, it can always happen tomorrow before the arbitration announcement. Either way, Trouba will be signed in short order.