According to new Flames Assistant General Manager Jay Feaster, talks are not going at a promising pace when it comes to a new contract for defenceman Ian White. It seems more and more likely that the two sides will end up meeting on July 30th in Toronto for salary arbitration. What that means for the Flames is yet to be determined.
So let’s assume arbitration is the route being taken, for better or worse…and let’s assume no long term contract extension is agreed upon prior to next Friday. That means the Flames will be given two choices once the judge makes a ruling on a one year contract for White: take it, or leave it. And making that choice may not be as simple as it sounds from the outside, after really thinking about it the last few days.
On Wednesday afternoon, Thrashers forward Clarke MacArthur was awarded $2.4 million through arbitration…a dollar figure the Thrashers wanted no part of, as they decided to walk away. Atlanta acquired MacArthur at the trade deadline in exchange for 2010 third and fourth round draft picks. The 25 year old forward split last season, his fourth in the NHL, between Buffalo and Atlanta, putting up a career high 35 points in 81 games. So, he sees a $1 million raise on his cap number from last year, which was at $1.4 mil. Hmmm…$2.4 million for MacArthur? Not freaking bad at all.
So, let’s look at White’s comparables (obviously there will be less with him being a defenceman). White turned 26 in June and now has five NHL seasons under his belt. Last year he split time with Toronto and Calgary, putting up a career high 38 points in 83 games. Those 38 points put him first in team scoring among defencemen and fifth overall…not bad for a guy with an $850,000 cap number last season.
Now, each arbitration case is different, we know that. For a little depth, go back and read the FlamesNation mock arbitration for White, written up by Robert and Kent about a month ago. A lot of time and research went into that article, and the arguments are far more compelling on the side of White than on the side of the Flames. I have a feeling a real arbitration hearing could take a similar tone.
The fact MacArthur received the dollar figure he did by using this avenue, is it out of the question to suggest White (being a defenceman, with more points last season and more experienced) might get an even heftier number? I know that handicapping an arbitration hearing can sometimes be foolhardy, but if White were to be awarded something between $3 and $4 million, I wouldn’t be surprised.
Back to the old assumption game…say my number is correct…what do the Flames do? Is it a slam dunk to say they accept the deal and go forward? Or is there the potential GM Darryl Sutter takes a look at his teams current cap situation and decides taking on that salary is not feasable? My personal take would say go ahead and accept the terms…you can work it this season, and he’ll help you this season. If being an unrestricted free agent is what he wants, he’ll have that opportunity in less than a year. If something longterm is still in the plans, well, that can still be discussed.
But who knows what an arbitrator will award? If the number is too high, the Flames cannot further hamper themselves by accepting the terms "because he was part of the Phaneuf trade." Yes…if they walk away, the deal would end up netting Matt Stajan and Nik Hagman for Phaneuf, which is clearly not good. But that deal has been done, and if White’s number is too high, optics and a past deal cannot factor into the equation.
All this may end up moot if White ends up signing prior to the 30th, but the countdown to an intriguing arbitration is certainly on.