The Calgary Flames have a number of restricted free agents to sign. For some – like Sam Bennett and Curtis Lazar – the process can’t really be forced, and a deal will likely get done sooner or later. For others – like Micheal Ferland – it can be pressed along if the player is eligible for arbitration.
Ferland has filed for arbitration regarding his next contract. He is the only Flames RFA to do so.
Ferland, 25, is coming off of a two-year deal worth an annual average value of $825,000. When he signed that deal following the 2014-15 season, all he really had to show for it was a decent final quarter of the season and an outstanding first round playoff series. Since then, he’s proved he’s a surefire NHLer, although to what extent isn’t quite clear yet.
This past season, Ferland scored 15 goals and 25 points in 76 games. He averaged a mere 11:34 in ice time per game, but ended the season playing on the team’s top line, alongside two players making over $6 million a year. This poses a central question to his arbitration proceedings, should they reach that point: is Ferland a fourth liner or a first liner?
Read more: RFA Profile: Micheal Ferland
Arbitration hearings have been noted for their potential to be vicious, and it’s generally in everyone’s best interests to get the player signed before that point is reached; however, it’s not the end of the world if the hearing goes forward. It will, however, mean Ferland’s camp will be building him up in order to prove he’s worth the salary they’re seeking, while the Flames will be not necessarily tearing him down but certainly not giving him as glowing a review in an attempt to sign the player to a cheaper deal.
So Ferland’s camp could, for example, say that he was the best fit alongside Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, and deserves to be paid accordingly (though they probably aren’t seeking a similar salary; Ferland has a career 48 points in 173 games and some realism has to be applied here), while the Flames may point out how he was used sparingly and could call his elevated 2016-17 shooting percentage into question.
It is worth noting that Ferland requires two more seasons to reach unrestricted free agency, and if his case is decided by an arbitrator, the result will be binding for either one or two seasons, no more, no less. Ferland is also no longer eligible to sign any offer sheets.
A brief recent history of the Flames and arbitration
No Flames RFAs filed for arbitration in 2016, but three did in 2015: Lance Bouma, Paul Byron, and Josh Jooris. Byron and Jooris settled and were re-signed before their arbitration hearings, picking up one-year deals just shy of $1 million.
Bouma’s hearing, on the other hand, proceeded. The Flames ended up re-signing him before the arbitrator could hand down their decision, however, to a three-year deal worth an annual average value of $2.2 million. That contract backfired. Ferland has shown more through his NHL career to date – not to mention the success he has experienced actually appears sustainable – so the Flames likely won’t be in a Bouma situation should they end up with something similar with Ferland.