The inestimable James Mirtle wrote an article about the arbitration process, and specifically Clarke MacArthur’s ridiculous award. We now know how C-Mac got it:
When it came time to meet with an arbitrator, the Thrashers simply asked for the award to be presented immediately, based on the player’s demands, so they could then walk away from the contract.
“We said, you know what, maybe it wouldn’t be a bad thing if he gets this silly award,” Thrashers general manager Rick Dudley said. “We kind of encouraged it.”
This was actually crazy like a fox, as it turned out. With Clarke getting such a high award, the Thrashers could walk away. If they had wrestled it down to $1.6mil or below, they would’ve been stuck with it the way Buffalo was with Tim Kennedy’s. Could you imagine how much grief GMDR could’ve saved himself if he had gamed the system like that? “Yes, please award him $2 million bucks. WE DARE YOU.”
Regier’s reasoning behind the arbitration problems:
Sabres GM Darcy Regier said part of the problem stems from depth players being paid less under the salary cap as stars get a larger share of the pie.
“The arbitration system has largely been built over the years on a pricing system for these players that, if it’s not obsolete, it’s going to be obsolete,” Regier said. “[Free agents] are available on the market for a price determined by the market and not by an arbitration system that’s running a little behind.”
The Niemi/Turco situation is the prime example…why pay $2.75 million when there’s a guy who had similar numbers willing to take half (one reason: if the guy is 10 years younger, but with the cap situation in Chicago…). Rick Dudley, Thrashers GM says it best here:
“My theory is very simple,” Dudley said. “If I put the player on waivers tomorrow, would he be claimed? If the answer’s no, then in all likelihood, that’s a contract I wouldn’t want.”
Tim Kennedy passed through waivers. Bottom line, his award (even if not crazy) is a contract no one wants. Teams may regret it in a year or two, but I doubt it.