57Elias Lindholm
Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Could any Flames file for salary arbitration?

After the frenzy of moves and signings over the past two weeks, it’s easy for fans and followers of the Calgary Flames to be a bit out of breath. A lot has happened, and there’s still the better part of three months until training camp opens in early September. So, what’s left to happen before everyone arrives in Calgary?

One big piece of business is the re-signing of the club’s nine restricted free agents to new deals. Of interest this week is Thursday’s 3 p.m. MT deadline for players to file for salary arbitration. Five Flames RFAs have enough accrued experience to qualify for arbitration. Would it make sense for any of them to exercise that option?

All about arbitration

By virtue of having a particular combination of age and professional experience, five Flames RFAs have the option to file for salary arbitration: Elias Lindholm, Mark Jankowski, Garnet Hathaway, Brett Kulak and David Rittich.

Arbitration is a complex process, but it boils down to basically this:

  1. The player side collects statistics and finds comparable players with favourable contracts, arguing that it would be crazy to have this player make any less than their counterparts because they’re so alike. (In other words: “Brett Kulak is awesome and should make amazing money.”)
  2. The team side does the same, except citing stats and arguing that the comparable players the player side has are bunk. Then they present comparables they feel are more representative of how the player should be compensated. (In other words: “Brett Kulak is a fine player, but sucks so bad in specific ways that he should get a crappy contract.”)
  3. The player can request a one- or two-year contract in the arbitration process. After hearing both sides, the arbitrator makes their binding recommendation. Unless the cap hit is over a certain amount, the team and player are then locked in.

Because the process involves, out of necessity, the team publicly burying a player and the airing of grievances, typically both sides try to avoid actually going to the hearing. The reason players file for arbitration is usually to put a deadline on getting a contract negotiated, rather than having the process drag on for months – as what happened with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau a few summers ago.

Who doesn’t have any comparables?

Generally speaking, players who have barely dipped their toe in the NHL pool don’t have a great sample size of comparable players to select from because you’re trying to find a defined market value for a similar player, based on a recent contract. For example, imagine you’re the agent for Rittich or Hathaway: Rittich has two years of North American pro hockey under his belt and Hathaway finally got into the NHL full-time after yoyo-ing for several seasons. It’s extremely difficult to find players whose circumstances are close enough to really provide ammunition in a hearing.

Who has okay comparables?

There are reasonable comparisons for both Jankowski and Kulak, but the challenge is the contracts those players got are all over the place.

Jankowski has one NHL season under his belt with 25 points in 73 games. Players of similar age, experience and productivity include Seth Griffin (signed for 2018-19 at $650,000), Chandler Stephenson ($650,000), Joseph Blandisi ($680,000) and Martin Frk ($1.05 million). Frk is arguably the best comparable, though, as he also spent time at lower levels before breaking through last season at the NHL level – though Frk has considerably more pro experience than Jankowski.

Kulak has a couple NHL seasons under his belt – one full – and has 11 points in 101 games. Players of similar age, experience and productivity include Slater Koekkoek ($865,000) and Matt Grzelcyk ($1.4 million). Given that Kulak has been used in a more limited role than Grzelcyk and is still establishing himself at the NHL level, Koekkoek is arguably the better fit (but still isn’t perfect).

Who has decent comparables?

Lindholm has spent more years in the league than Jankowski or Kulak, so it should be easier to find players with similar career trajectories, roles, and offensive production. There’s good news and bad news if you’re looking for an arbitration case for him.

The good news is that Bo Horvat and Alexander Wennberg both signed new contracts in the last year after posting similar offensive numbers in fairly similar roles to Lindholm’s. The bad news is that those players signed six-year deals, which really don’t help when it comes to arguing a one- or two-year arbitration ward.

On the other hand, Andre Burakovsky recently signed a two-year contract but he’s only a little bit similar to Lindholm’s production and role. All citing Burakovsky’s $3 million bridge deal would do in arbitration is make the arbitrator go, “So more than $3 million, then? Cool.” It’s not exactly the slam dunk argument you’re looking for if you’re going to arbitration in the first place.

Sum it up

In other words, for several years, it really seems unlikely that any of the Flames’ five potential arbitration cases will bother to file for salary arbitration. They just wouldn’t be able to find suitably compelling comparisons to compel the arbitrator to take their side.


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  • Mickey O'Reaves


    “Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist.” ~ Pablo Picasso

    Don’t forget the unwritten rules also: like no offer sheets, the fighting codes etc.

    Was looking for that Picasso quote, because it is like the CBA handbook, and found the above article. Enjoyed it, so I thought I’d post it.

    The Burke – Treliving connection; and the Babs – Rebar duo are in there as well, you just have to know where you are looking.

  • freethe flames

    Lets look at the comparables for Lindholm and try and sign him for a longer term.
    Lindholm’s career so far: 21 points/39 points/45 points/44 points.

    Here are 3 players to compare him with and their contracts:
    Hertl: 25/31/46/22*/46 new contract 4 years x $5.65m *injured most of that year.
    Wannberg: 20/40/59/35* 5 years x $4.9m * injured for a good chunk of that year

    Horvat: 25/40/52/44 5 years at $5.5m

    If BT can get Lindholm signed for between Wennberg and Horvats money for 5 years we should be happy.(less would always be good but I doubt it happens)

    • Mickey O'Reaves

      Hanifin is the interesting one for me. The player wanted a 6 year deal at $5M a year. Carolina, and the new hands-on everything owner, said no. Now there is talk that they might bridge Hanifin. Well, that’s what Matt Cane’s model says. I really can’t see it.

      You gave up a big star for this 5th overall in Hanifin, and now he wants the security of a long term deal. Give it to him. But of course chisel him down a bit and don’t rush to sign the paperwork whilst cackling in joy, so that him and his agent think they could have got more.

      Treliving is a master at these deals, I’m sure he’s got things figured. Sure you are paying for potential, but AGM Rebar will know everything about him.

      Lindholm is going to be the tricky one.

      • freethe flames

        The only thing with waiting is what happens if a comparable signs a big contract. The Hertl deal raised Lindholms ask; if BT had gotten the deal done before hand it would have been a little less expensive.

          • Off the wall

            With Hanifin not eligible for arbitration, I believe Treliving will give him term. Money wise, I have no idea, but if you can get Lindholm and Hanifin locked up for longer term at $10M, it’s a win..

          • Baalzamon

            That would be ideal, but there’s another shoe to drop here. The Flames can’t sign Lindholm and Hanifin both to 5+, and afford to sign Jankowski, Kulak, and Rittich. There needs to be some salary moved out.

            They might have to bridge Hanifin. They might not have a choice (though obviously I’m hoping they’re able to trade Stone. That would solve numerous problems in one move).

          • Mickey O'Reaves

            Getting a long term deal done for Hanifin takes precedence. It’s not like BT has shown much proclivity to just wing it. There will be a contract going out somewhere.

          • Baalzamon

            That’s true. He’s very careful when it comes to contract extensions. Certainly Gaudreau came in below all our expectations (and that was an offseason where cap issues were universally expected).

            Has Treliving ever executed a cap dump? For some reason I’m blanking on that.

          • freethe flames

            Hanifin has 4 years before he becomes a UFA, he might the guy to bridge. I’m looking at the Flames internal cap structure Hammonic makes $3.8m and Brodie makes $4.65m; does anyone see BT giving Hanifin more than TJ?

          • Kevin R

            Interesting that the Canes signed Da Haan & now the UFA D market is pretty thin with Hamius & Orpik ugggh. Also interesting that Canes have probably the best D option in Faulk(Karlsson is a total different animal) dangling out there & there are several teams looking for some D. Stone is looking more & more like a 2nd & 3rd round pick asset.
            It wont take Tre too long to make some cap space.

          • Parallex

            I kind of feel they should bridge Hanifin… he’s only 21 so a seven year deal will take him to 28. He’d have prime years left at UFA if he fully pans out. We have no idea how he would handle hard minutes (he’s been sheltered thus far).

          • everton fc

            I always sensed Stone could snatch us a 2nd or 3rd. He’s not a horrible 5/6 d-man. And we wouldn’t have to eat cap.

            Seems to me the guys who can be moved, to free up some cap space are Stone, Frolik, Brodie, and the albatross, Brouwer. If Ryan is moved to 3RW, and Jankowski centres w/Bennett on LW – which may very well happen – Frolik can be moved. Stone will be moved. That frees up $7.8mill right there. Finding a team that needs cap could be the way to punt the millstone, Brouwer, though it may also cost us someone like Kylington or Mangiapane, or, ideally, a pick. (Josh Healey’s paid $858K. Would love to move that contract, as well. Ditto Mason McDonald’s $822K. One can dream)

  • freethe flames

    After the off season so far what does BT need to do?

    Are there any bargains out there in FA that BT should consider as depth adds? After looking at the UFA market here are some names I think might make sense:

    at Forward: Shore/Shaw/Jurco/Duclair
    on D: Folin and Sproul.
    in net: nobody.

  • freethe flames

    Janko will be 24 in September giving the Flames 3 season before he becomes a FA. So do you sign him to a 1 year show me contract or a 2 year contract? Or do you project further out than that?(take a gamble and hope he turns out) If you can get him for 2 years at $1.25m I think you do it.

  • Off the wall

    I seem to remember Ferland filed for arbitration, however Treliving got the deal done without it.

    I doubt we’ll see any players go to arbitration..

  • Flaming moe

    So after reading the comments it seems like the consensus is to pay Lindy around 5 million. Hanifin will also be in the 4-5 million. If that all plays out which I’m sure it will, well then that has me worried about next year. What is Byng going to want???? He is much better than Lindy. Who would have thought we might be in cap trouble next year.

    • freethe flames

      Tkachuk’s new contract will not take effect next year, it would take in the following year and unless it is crazy money $10m+ the Flames will not be in cap trouble then. One of the reasons you want to sign Janko and Kulak to 2 year deals this year is mitigate the cap issues next year. As it stands the Flames will have 3 significant contract issues next off season Tkachuk, Bennett and a starting goalie. Unless Bennett has a monster year 70+ points he will not be getting a massive raise. As for the goalie situation; who knows.

    • Kevin R

      You cross that bridge when it comes. Thing to remember is that both Brodie & Hamonic will have 1 year left on their deals & very marketable if we need to make some extra space, especially if some of our younger cost controlled kids like Kulak, Andersson & Valamaki step up & make those two expendable or at least one of them expendable.

      • Baalzamon

        Frolik will be very tradeable as well, especially with Dube pretty much looking like a direct replacement.

        The Flames have options. But for the time being, they really do have to move Stone for a pick.

        • dewtel

          Move Stone when you maximize his value. While the Stone signing was widely viewed a too expensive and too long, it has actually played out not too bad. Stone contributed last year and his cap space was not a factor since they missed the playoffs anyways (GG,injuries,drive).
          Anderson and Kuluk were both put in a position to succeed and they are better for it, long run.
          Moving forward, both have earned regular 5/6 looks at training camp.
          There is a lot of teams who have much worse 5/6 options than the Flames, and there is even less with his NHL experience, skills and age. Sure they can throw their prospects into the NHL, but I like the way the Flames sheltered Anderson to star in the AHL. How many stud prospects have failed because they cave been brought to the NHL too soon.
          Stone’s $3.5 million for the next 2 years does not look too bad compared to the alternatives left in the market today.
          If star defensemen make $11M , 1/2 lesser stars will going forward make closer to $8M, 3/4 $6 plus, what does an experienced 5/6 make with the new cap space this year and next? Remember in case of injury Stone can play 3/4.
          I think he has greater value later this year, especially at Trade value when Cup contenders need depth and injury replacements. What good does a late 2 rounder, early 2nd rounder do us now, when the draft is a full year away?

    • Rockmorton65

      It’ll be tight, but I wouldn’t call it trouble. Tre’s not even done this year, let alone next offseason. There’s the Brouwer buyout and Stone, Frolik and even Hamonic and Backlund are all potentially tradeable pieces, if needed.

  • Searsy

    Let’s remember that the team can file for arbitration on any of these players as well. The benefit to having at least one player file (or the team file on at least one player) is that this opens up another buy out window. Depending on how things go the rest of the summer, opening up another buy out window will add cap flexibility (hello Brouwer). The additional buy out window opens whether the parties settle prior to award being determined or not.

    So, look for someone to be taking someone to arbitration one way or the other (and then settling).

    • Seabass

      If a Stone deal is made for a pick, then the Brouwer buyout would benefit us more next year anyways. We will be fine against the cap this year once that trade is made. Brouwer in the press box is fine for the year and then we will have less term on the buyout which will help us in 3 years. I trust Tre’s master plan here and it’s coming together very nicely. No need to stress this summer, these will take time, but will get done.

  • freethe flames

    Speaking of the Hanifin deal which other RFA D are seeking new contracts. The two most similar are Nurse and Theodore. What are their deals going to look like?