The second piece of news today (the first being the re-signing of Magnus Paajarvi) has Blues fans on twitter all .... uh... atwitter.
Today was the first arbitration deadline. The players have first crack at filing for a hearing to decide next year’s contract value, and the club has a separate chance to do so afterwards. Jaden Schwartz and his agent, playing it smart, have elected to file for arbitration at this deadline.
What does this mean?
Not a lot - yet. This is a player and his agent simply doing their due diligence in the course of the business side of the game. This opportunity is something that Schwartz did not have back in 2014 when he signed a 2-year deal shortly after camp started. The benefit to arbitration is that it puts a deadline on contract talks. Truthfully, neither side wants to have the hearing before the arbitrator; those can be pretty ugly and both sides would rather retain some degree of control of the end result. Neither side wants to leave it in the hands of a third party. However, the impending hearing can create the sense of urgency to get it done sooner rather than later. The individual hearings haven’t been scheduled yet, but they will be between July 20 and August 4. They can continue negotiating right up to the minute before the arbitrator renders his/her decision.
Using last year as an example, in the 2015 offseason there were 25 arbitration filings made - 23 by the player, 2 by the team. Of the 25 cases, only 3 went all the way through the process. The other 22 were all settled before a decision has handed down. One of those was Craig Smith, who went through the hearing but settled with the Predators on a 5-year deal before the arbitrator announced their decision. In a similar fashion, Erik Haula and the Minnesota Wild struck a deal after their hearing but before the decision was handed down. Those must have been some kind of hearings. However, it seems notable that the vast majority of these were handled between the player and the team before the third party had to step in.
More than likely, that will also happen here. The team wants to lock up Schwartz for a decent amount of term, and will only have a max of two-years to sign him on an arbitrated deal. Similarly, Jaden doesn’t want to sit through a hearing where the team explains why he isn’t worth the money he wants to be paid. Surely, a major injury that shortened his contract year will have an impact. All told, it is in both sides’ interests to settle this amongst themselves. This just forces the issue and provides a hard deadline. On the plus side, this removes the possibility of a hold-out at camp.
Ironically, it was the aforementioned Magnus Paajarvi that was the last Blues player to file for arbitration. Before the hearing happened, the two sides worked out a deal for 1 year and $700,000, which is the same deal he signed again for the upcoming season.
As they say, stay tuned.