Heading into this summer, the Carolina Hurricanes had a lot of questions about who would represent the club on its blueline. Today, the National Hockey League Players Association announced that 24 players have officially filed for arbitration, one of which has already been settled. Among that list were two Hurricanes restricted free agent defensemen. Maxime Lajoie and Ethan Bear.
Bear was acquired from Edmonton when free agency opened in 2021 and started last season off incredibly well. However, Bear has had an ongoing battle with the Coronavirus after his battle with the infection left him with long-term side effects. That coupled with the ankle injury he suffered shows that his play dropped off. There has been a lot of hope for Bear moving forward as to what his expectations are.
Lajoie on the other hand seemed to always be an option. As one of the top pairing on the Calder Cup Winning Chicago Wolves, the Quebec City native has given himself an excellent claim to an NHL position somewhere. However, Carolina has three guys making $4 million or more on the left side next year, so there is a little logjam ahead of him. But the former Ottawa Senator has been someone that has impressed the Chicago Wolves.
Both players will make a legal case for a contract they believe that they are worth, and eventually, this will get before an arbitrator who will award a contract. It can be settled before it gets to that point, but they will have contracts one way or another. Both players filing for arbitration takes away their ability to sign an offer sheet, so at least here, that threat is gone so calm down if this is something that had you panicked.
For those that don’t know, there is a minimum amount awarded to the player on a one-year contract for the team to be eligible to walk away from a deal, and this year it is a hair over $4.2 million. However, arbitration allows teams to open up a second buy-out window. Carolina did nothing in the first window, but they may have another chance if either Bear or Lajoie gets to an arbitrator.
Arbitration is an awful, awful thing. It is how to ruin a player’s relationship with a team really quickly. A player makes a case trying to get overpaid, the team makes a case trying to get him underpaid, and a neutral third party has to decide what is right in this situation. Often what teams say in an arbitration hearing about their player can deeply affect their relationship. A player can’t be traded pending arbitration I believe, but don’t use this as a cold hard fact.
This does mean that Carolina Hurricanes General Manager Don Waddell has a long summer ahead of him planning to fight both arbitration cases or settle, and possibly finding a home for these players if they are awarded more than the team can afford, or trying to figure out a contract to buy out that isn’t awful. We’ll see where this leads, but it’s going to be a long summer here on Cardiac Cane.