Unsigned Wild center and restricted free agent Erik Haula filed for salary arbitration in advance of Sunday’s 4 p.m. CT deadline. The majority of players who file for arbitration annually end up settling with their teams before the arbitration hearing, which will be scheduled for later this month (see Justin Fontaine last year).
Arbitration is a normal process in the collective bargaining agreement. While it can be a contentious process if two sides actually end up presenting their cases in front of a neutral arbitrator, the one good thing about arbitration is it guarantees a solution.
In other words, without a shadow of a doubt now, a contract between Haula and the Wild will be complete 48 hours after the hearing (if there ever is one), or well before training camp. In other words, there is no risk now of a contract dispute like Darcy Kuemper had with the Wild until the eve of training camp last September.
Haula had a tough 2014-15 season, scoring seven goals and seven assists in 72 games with a minus-7 and being stuck in coach Mike Yeo’s doghouse for much of his sophomore year. He was scratched in eight of 10 playoff games, scoring once in two games. Haula was one of the Wild’s best penalty killers, however, being on the ice for seven power-play goals against in 153 minutes, 47 seconds of shorthanded ice time (second among Wild forwards behind now-departed Kyle Brodziak). The Wild had the NHL’s top-ranked PK.
If a contract isn’t settled between the Wild and Haula, the two sides will exchange briefs 48 hours before the scheduled hearing. The Wild will elect whether or not Haula would be awarded a one- or two-year contract. Each side will also attach a salary figure it believes Haula deserves. The arbitrator then decides the salary with the term the Wild chooses.
Again, even if the sides get to the point where it exchanges briefs, the Wild and Haula can settle on a contract right up until the hearing. That happened one year with Pierre-Marc Bouchard.
Even if the Wild elect a one- or two-year term in arbitration, the team can negotiate a contract of any term with Haula’s agent and settle beforehand.
By Haula filing for arbitration, this does potentially open up a second buyout window for the Wild. This would not seem to affect Niklas Backstrom though because according to Backstrom’s recently-hired new agent, Jay Grossman (who coincidentally happens to be Haula’s agent), Backstrom isn’t expected to be medically cleared from elbow surgery until at least training camp.
Christian Folin and Jon Blum also remain unsigned as of now. Folin’s one of those weird Group 1 free agents where he’s not really free. He can’t go to another team and the Wild holds exclusive rights.
Blum also has arbitration rights and can file by 4 p.m. My guess is he won’t and will be traded at some point to give the defenseman and good citizen a fresh start in another organization.
In other news, Brandon Dubinsky showed some holiday spirit in the wee hours of this morning with a couple tweets, one to Wild defenseman Mike Reilly, who became a free agent by not signing with the team that drafted him, Dubinsky’s Blue Jackets. This will be a story line next season because Jackets star Ryan Johansen also tweeted June 17, “We didn’t want him anyway.”
One of Dubinsky’s 2 a.m. tweets, a response to a Wild fan asking if he has ever heard of the playoffs, was particularly well-crafted.
I'll toss a screen capture of his predictably deleted tweets up later, but the one aimed at Reilly said, "Final thought of the holiday.....Mike Reilly made a tough choice ... #werenotincollege #burntbridges #CBJ>MNW #werule #gophers[stink]"
Uh, except Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards, of course!