Arbitration – Walking Away

For a second time this year, a team has walked away from a player due to the size of the award granted to them through the arbitration process.

Buffulo was not willing to part with the $2.9 million dollars it was going to take to keep J.P. Dumont on their roster this season.

Last week, it was the Boston Bruins walking away from David Tanabe who was awarded a lowly $1.275 million. 

What makes this situation so interesting is that this is only the 3rd and 4th time in 12 years for any team to walk away from a player’s arbitration award.  The first two situations were both with Boston, in 1998 with Dmitri Kristich, and in 2003 with Bryan Berard.

So Buffalo’s decision is ground breaking, being the first team other than Boston to actually walk away from a player.  But what’s different now, is the salary cap.  Previously it was only a matter of dollars, but now it’s a matter of dollars and cap space.

And that makes all the difference. 

The interesting part of this is that a team can only walk away 2 times in a 3 year span.  So now, a teams ability to sign their players and avoid the arbitration process is even more important to the long term health of the team.  They do not want to risk getting into a position like Buffalo where they are almost forced to walk away.

And this is just the start of things to come.  As more teams see the need to keep their payroll in check, they will not be able to accept unreasonably high awards to players they don’t consider part of the core of their team.

It’s unlikely you’ll see teams walking away from low arbitration awards as Boston did this year with Tanabe, but that’s Boston, and the whole reason this walk away clause was put in the CBA back in 1995 in the first place was because of their owner, Jeremy Jacobs.

It was considered a great win for the owners to have the ability to take a player to arbitration.  It was Mike Keenan who first jumped to use this new clause last year with Roberto Luongo.  And we know how well that worked out for Keenan.

The Chief Canuck

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