With a potential salary arbitration hearing 48 hours away, the Wild and restricted free-agent center Erik Haula exchanged briefs Wednesday morning at 8 o'clock Central.
Good morning from Seattle, where I just landed after a red eye from Maui. Yes, I'm back and timed the Haula-arbitration brief exchange just perfectly. Hopefully this reads OK; writing it from my iPhone.
The Wild is looking to pay Haula $775,000 next season and Haula is seeking $1.2 million, sources confirm. If the sides go through with arbitration and don't settle before an arbitrator makes his decision, the arbitrator will choose his own number equal to or between the ranges after hearing each side's argument.
This is different than, say, baseball, where the arbitrator chooses either the team's number or the player.
Since Haula filed for arbitration, the Wild gets to pick the term. The Wild has opted for a one-year award, sources say.
Again, even if the sides go through with arbitration, it can settle a contact at any term prior to the arbitrator's decision, which will come within 48 hours of the hearing. Of course, the sides haven't been close prior to the brief exchange. As I've mentioned a thousand times, the good news regarding what can often be a contentious arbitration process is they're guaranteed a solution soon with Haula and this contract squabble won't continue for too much longer.
If the sides don't settle on a contract, the arbitration hearing is scheduled for Friday at 9 a.m. ET in Toronto. Assistant GM Brent Flahr and director of hockey administration Shep Harder will represent the Wild. Agent Jay Grossman will represent Haula. In my time covering the Wild, the team hasn't gotten through the arbitration process with any player. Pierre-Marc Bouchard was close; I think briefs were exchanged.
Haula scored seven goals and seven assists in 72 games last season and was minus-7. He was scratched in eight of 10 playoff games, scoring one goal. Haula was one of the Wild's top penalty killers. As part of the league's top PK, he was on the ice for seven power-play goals in 153-plus minutes of shorthanded time.
Defenseman Jon Blum remains unsigned. The Wild has been trying to trade him to give him a fresh start. Blum's options are re-signing with the Wild and perhaps Chuck Fletcher can move him at some point or signing in Europe, where he has some options.
In other news, Matt Dumba will change his number to 24 next season. This was his number before turning pro and Len Boogaard, father of the late Derek Boogaard, emailed me unsolicited yesterday to let me know Dumba called him last week to ask permission if it was OK with the family if Dumba wear Derek's 24. Matt Cooke did the same thing before wearing 24 with the Wild. Len said he was very impressed with Dumba and called him a "classy kid."
Lastly, there will be a press event at Bayfront Park on Thursday to officially name Duluth the host city for Hockey Day Minnesota 2016 on Feb. 6. Also, next week the Wild and NHL will hold a press event for the Stadium Series game against the Blackhawks on Feb. 21.