August 14, 2011
When Shea Weber(notes) received a 1-year, $7.5 million contract in his arbitration case with the Nashville Predators, we assumed the ruling placed him smack dab in the middle of what Brent Seabrook(notes) ($7 million) and Duncan Keith(notes) ($8 million) of the Chicago Blackhawks will make in base salary next season.
The transcripts from the Weber hearing confirm those comparables, as Larry Brooks of the New York Post shared details of the decision on Sunday morning.
The Predators? They tried to use Keith Yandle(notes) ($5.25 million) of the Phoenix Coyotes and Dustin Byfuglien(notes) ($4.25 million) of the Winnipeg Jets as comparable to Weber, but the judge wasn't buying it. Obviously also a Norris Trophy voter
Brooks' main point, however, is an interesting one: That Judge Michel Picher has given an elite defenseman a "just reward of $7.5 million by virtue of a decision rendered by Picher that should become a model for any future arbitrator."
From the NY Post:
Finally, an arbitrator who did more than split the difference between a club's submission and the player's. Finally, an arbitrator who did more than color by numbers upon reaching his decision.
… the arbitrator reached his decision based on the compensation due Keith and Seabrook this coming season, including signing bonuses, rather than on their respective cap hits over the course of their long-term contracts. This was not about a multi-year deal; this was about compensation for 2011-12.
Hockey's arbitration process is different than baseball's in that there's compromise in the offers: MLB has a panel choosing one offer or the other, while the NHL offers the chance to meet in the middle, which arbitrators often do.
The NHL's club-elected arbitration — which Weber's was — is also a mechanism to try and keep salaries down. (In Weber's case, to protect him from an offer sheet.)
Based on all the evidence, Weber's salary next season was the right one to emerge from the hearing. Brooks is right: Seeing someone come out of this process with a justifiable wage — rather than a low-balling from his team or an outlandish ruling based on a huge statistical season — is refreshing.
If the Predators didn't want to have this number applied to Weber, the only way to avoid it was with a long-term deal beforehand, which is the essence of arbitration: It should work as a catalyst for getting deals done; short of that, it should award fair compensation for the player.