It would probably be fair to say that an arbitration hearing is something you want to avoid if possible. Numerous players have done so this offseason, and Ian White did the same this morning, signing a one year contract with the Calgary Flames worth $2,999,995. So, the two sides avoid arbitration, which might end up being the best case for both sides.
Why could this be the best case scenario? Well, first of all, it’s good to avoid the arbitration process. When talking to Assistant GM Jay Feaster today, there was a feeling that not going through the process might be the best way to go. GM Darryl Sutter told Ian prior to the hearing that he was going to rip him in regards to the downfalls in his game, something which White was okay with. However, White said on The Fan 960 this afternoon that not going to arbitration was probably still desirable.
To frame it from White’s perspective, it ends up working well for him. Not only does he avoid the potential unpleasant nature of the hearing, but he also gets his one year deal. Sure, it might have been for a couple hundred thousand less than an award from an arbitrator, but as we’ve seen with other cases (Moulson, Stralman), it could be worth it settle for a potentially lower dollar figure to not go through the process. So now, if he is thinking that way, White has the potential to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, 2011. He’d be 27 years old, and if he’s able to put together another strong season, he’d be primed to cash in if he so desired. However, White told The Fan today that the goal is to sign a long term deal with the Flames, and that option also remains. White said his door is always open in that regard, and he’s hoping to revisit the subject in January.
But what about from the Flames standpoint? Yes, White is coming off a career season, and that would surely have played into an award from an arbitrator. But the Flames have only had White in the fold for 27 games, and maybe management hasn’t decided a long term plan for him. Well, with a one year contract, you get a little more flexibility. If they really like what he’s able to do through the first few months of the season, then you ramp up the urgency to ink an extension. If they aren’t as happy as they were with a limited sample size last season, then they have two options: cut ties when the contract runs out at the end of the season, or start looking at moving the player via the trade market.
Arbitration was going to give the Flames and the player options going forward, which is why I thought it might not be the worst thing in the world if the hearing went forward. However, if you can keep those same options without going through the process, why not? That’s exactly what happened here, and it puts to bed one of the most intriguing issues of the Calgary offseason.
Now, with the team over the cap, the question to be asked is clear. What do the Flames do prior to October to get themselves back under the limit? Let the speculation begin!