Ian White – Mock Arbitration



Ian White was almost certainly the best part of the return that the Flames obtained in the Dion Phaneuf transaction this past January. The Steinbach, MB. native moved into Phaneuf’s first pairing slot alongside Robyn Regehr with minimal fuss, finishing his stay in Calgary with 4 G, 9 A and a +7 rating in 27 games. White is a RFA this summer, and recent rumblings suggest that he could be headed to arbitration next month. In the spirit of past efforts from Japers’ Rink and Copper and Blue, we now offer a mock arbitration for the Flames’ rearguard. I’ll present the case for White, followed by Kent Wilson’s argument on behalf of the club.

Brief on behalf of the player (Ian White):

1. Overview

Ian White is a mobile top-four defenceman that completed his fourth full NHL season in 2009/2010. He possesses above-average skating, passing and shooting skills for a NHL defenceman, and has been relatively durable, missing only 18 games in his career. Over those four seasons he has consistently played against top six forwards, with the QComp numbers for 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 suggesting his competition was upgraded to first-line level at even strength. Despite that level of competition, he is a career +15, with his only minus season occurring in 07/08, when the Maple Leaf goaltenders posted a sub .900 EV SV% behind him. His team also out-shoots the opposition, with his relative Corsi rating for 2009/2010 finishing at a fairly healthy level

In terms of offensive production, Ian White has been a consistent EV scorer for his entire career. His EV point totals and league ranking amongst defencemen are as follows:

06/07 – 76 GP, 20 EV pts, 30th

07/08 – 81 GP, 20 EV pts, 25th

08/09 – 71 GP, 20 EV pts, 34th

09/10 – 83 GP, 29 EV pts, 5th

The points accrued were not merely accrued via assists, either. In 08/09, White finished tied for 4th amongst defencemen with 8 EV goals. This past season, he was tied for first in the league with 10. Over the last two seasons, only Shea Weber and Mike Green have totaled more than White’s 18 EV goals, each scoring 21. Given that EV play constitutes roughly 75% of time played in the NHL, a player who can produce at a high level during that game state is valuable to any NHL team, and Ian White has exhibited that skill four seasons running.

2. Comparables

For the purposes of this exercise, four players from two different seasons have been selected. Dennis Wideman’s and Tim Gleason’s seasons from 07/08 will be used, along with the 08/09 seasons of Dennis Grebeshkov and Tobias Enstrom. All numbers are from Behind The Net. The Zone Start numbers are for regular D on their respective teams, with 1st representing hardest. Most teams will have 5/6 defencemen that play at least 10 EV minutes over at least 40 games. For Relative Corsi, 1st would represent the best number amongst that same peer group of defencemen. The salary numbers are what the players were paid in the following season.

  Wideman   Gleason   Enstrom   Grebeshkov   White
GP 81   80   82   72   83
Qcomp top pairing   top pairing   top pairing   2nd pairing   top pairing
ZoneStart 50.4 – 5th   47.5 – 1st   41.6 – 3rd   48.4- 3rd   57.9 – 7th *
Rel. Corsi 1st   5th   4th   2nd   3rd
EVTOI 17.56   14.84   15.89   15.57   18.4
PKTOI 2.81   2.81   3.27   2.02   1.44
PPTOI 3.61   0.26   3.26   2.67   2.23
PPPTS/60 3.9   2.53   2.92   3.75   3.24
EVPTS/60 0.67   0.81   0.69   1.23   1.06
EV GD 0.13   0.25   -0.17   0.86   0.2
PDO 99.9   100   102.7   103.1   98.9
Salary 3.9 M   2.75 M   3.75 M   3.1 M   TBA

You’ll note the asterisk next to White’s ZoneStart number. BTN combined his full season numbers, but in the interests of fairness, it should be noted that White’s ZS during his 27 games in Calgary was 2nd toughest amongst the regular defencemen, trailing only Robyn Regehr.

As for the comparables, only Grebeshkov produced more at EV, but he did so against lesser competition, and his PDO number (combined EV SH % and SV%) suggest a player that benefited from more good fortune than White. It would be fair to say that in terms of productivity, Ian White is, at a minimum, in the range of these four players, and a legitimate argument is in place that he’s had a better platform year than any of them.

3. Summary:

Ian White is a quality NHL defender, capable of playing against good competition on a nightly basis. He is, and has been, a consistent performer at EV, as well as showing worthwhile PP skills. Given his career numbers and his productivity relative to his peer group, a significant increase in his compensation is in order. With that in mind, a salary award of 3,500,000 for the 2010/2011 season appears to be a fair reflection of his value.


Brief on Behalf of the team (Calgary Flames):

1. Overview

Ian White is a valued asset to the Flames organization and the team hopes to come to an equitable agreement. However,  White is also an undersized defender at 5’10" and 190 pounds and has some issues defending against the leagues bigger and stronger forwards. This is reflected in the fact that the he rarely played on the penalty kill during his time with Calgary (4:25 total). This year was also the first season in White’s career that he regularly faced top six opposition and though the results were good, the Flames contend that they were potentially aberrant and not truly indicative of the skater’s abilities. The team is thereore wary of overpaying for peak rather than actual performance.

While White was indeed deployed by the Toronto Maple Leafs as a top four defender, his circumstances were relatively soft nonetheless. White partnered with establshed players in Francois Beauchemin and Tomas Kaberle during his time there and had one of the easiest offensive to defensive face-off ratios on the team (60%) at even strength. In fact, that would have been a league leading zone start ratio had White remained in Toronto and continued to be fed the favorable starting postion – amongst regular NHL defenders, the Flames Adam Pardy finished with the highest offensive zone start in the league last year (58.8%).

Studies have shown that a relatively high amount of offensive zone draws tends to skew possession stats (corsi, shots) and counting stats (points, plus/minus) to the benefit of the player. The Flames contend that this was a primary driver of White’s 2009-10 totals in goals (13) and points (38) and even strength points (29), which stand in contrast to his career norms. Over three previous seasons, White averaged just six (6) goals and 24 points per year. Given the larger data set and the circumstances in question, these norms are likely a better representation of White’s abilities.

2. Comparables:

With the team’s contention in mind, comparables based on career average, rather than 2009-10 totals only, were sought out. In the interest of fairness, the Flames are willing to exclude White’s first season in the league (2005-06) and include the high water mark of 2009-10. Over four (4) seasons and 311 NHL games, White’s averages are presented below:

Goals  7.8
Assists  20
Points  27.8


 Comparables based on career averages include:

  Dan Hamhuis   Joe Corvo   James Wisniewski
Goals 5.3   9.7   4.3
Assists 21.5   21.4   20
Points 26.8   31.1   24.3*
Plus/minus +0.5   +5.6   +4.8
2009-10 Salary 2.0 M   2.625 M   2.337 M

*Wisniewski’s 2005-06 season was limited and therefore excluded

The Flames believe these players are compable to Ian White across a number of dimensions:

1.) Career norms fall within range.

2.) Similar types of player, with relatively comparable levels of competition and amount of minutes per game.

3.) Contract level. The salaries listed for Hamhuis and Wisniewski above were the second significant contract of each player’s career, negotiated when they were approaching restricted free agency. It should also be noted that Corvo’s salary is highest, but was granted via unrestricted free agency and was therefore based on a larger, more established body of work. He also possesses the highest point average amongst the comparables.   

3. Summary:

Ian White is a defender with a single season of truly noteworthy results. The Flames contend that that single season is not grounds for a four-fold increase in compensation given his physical limitations, prior results, circumstances in Toronto and peers in terms of both performance and contract level. As such, the team believes that a contract of 2,350,000 for 2010-2011 is a fair reflection of his value. 

  • Couple of things.

    Does anybody know how arbitration works? What is the min we have to offer?

    I gotta say that I am pulling for Ian. To get an offer sheet. If he is offered the 3.5 it’s a 1 and 3. So fingers crossed.

    I dunno, the guys an NHL guy. But in the cap world, if you are going to commit dollars, and you can get a range of guys for 4 and under…I dunno, you would think they could do better than Ian White for the money.

    • I believe in the NHL, the arbitrator can go with either of the offers, or a third, compromised contract he believes is fair to both parties.

      For the team it probably wouldn’t make sense to low-ball the offer too much, because it would render their argument rather impotent. If the Flames went to arb and claimed that White was worth a $1M contract, there’s little doubt the arbitrator would snort and award the win to White’s side.

  • An offer sheet is all fine & dandy, but realistically, aside from the Oilers foray one summer, and a couple incidents involving the Canucks (Kesler, Bernier/Backes), there really hasn’t been a whole lot of appetite for offer sheets. Couple that with the fact that a team has to be willing to give up the expected 1st & 3rd round picks, and I can’t see any team making an offer… at least not in that manner. If there’s interest from other teams (and why wouldn’t there be), then trade offers will be made.

    And I realize that the situations facing Hamhuis & White are different (UFA v. RFA; career GP), that is not a comparable I’d be making if I were the Flames… especially after Hamhuis gets more than Regehr come the 1st week of July.

    Ian White… congratulations on the $2.85-3.25M.

    • Re: Hamhuis – the comparables for White are mighty rare. He comes in underneath the obvious offensive leaders around his age and eligibility, but he’s well clear of a lot of other younger, second pairing guys as well.

      I personally think that Hamhuis is a better player, given his history, but I went with him because the career numbers are within range and the pickins were slim. That said, what Hamhuis wins in the free market this summer is immaterial to this exercise.

  • Here are the rules for NHL arbitration.

    The deadline for players to request salary arbitration is July 5, with cases heard in late July and early August. A player and team can continue to negotiate up until the date of the hearing, in hopes of agreeing on a contract and avoiding the arbitration process.

    Teams can also ask for salary arbitration. But a player can be taken to arbitration only once in his career, and can never receive less than 85 per-cent of his previous year’s salary. There are no such restrictions on the number of times a player can ask for arbitration, or the size of the salary awarded.

    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.

    More at the source. It also seems that my inclusion of Corvo would be considered “inadmissible” because he signed his contract as an unrestricted free agent.

  • Robert Cleave

    When I looked at all the potential comparables, the toughest for the Flames to deal with was Grebeshkov. He only had two full seasons under his belt, never so much as sniffed top pairing opposition, and needed some pretty good fortune to match White’s productivity. I’m pretty comfortable with the argument that Dennis Grebeshkov received a $3,150,000 contract for a considerably weaker body of work.

  • Robert Cleave

    Given the cap contraints of the Flames can they realistically afford him for $3M+?
    Look at this:
    J. Bouwmeeseter: $6.68M
    R. Regehr: $4.02M
    C. Sarich: $3.6M
    S. Staios: $2.7M
    That’s $17M committed to 4 defensemen or about 30% of your cap. Increase it by $3M now you’re at 35%. 35% of your cap for 5 players who are not on your team to score? You have to do a sign and trade, trade him or at lease write one of those 4 off your books.

    From all sounds Darryl doesn’t sound like he’s going to do much except for some “tweaking”. I’ve heard some pundants talk about this year people wont’ be taking on bad contracts, so how will he make it work? In his interview this week he sounded like Kosilik was the 2nd coming of Mark Messier, without the scoring.

  • Robert Cleave

    I agree that Sarich and/or Staios have to move. My concern is that teams are smartening up and not willin to take back back contracts. Plus if, and it sound like it will happen, if he goes to arbitration, thats a 1 year plan, what about next year when he qualifies as a UFA? Long term thinking has not been one of Sutter’s strengths.

  • Robert Cleave

    …so I guess it’s fair to say White, either via arbitration or contract extension with the Flames, will recieve 3 million + or – 250k per year. Not a bad situation at all.