The NHL has announced the arbitration dates, and Lars Eller's is scheduled for this upcoming Friday, the 25th. Marc Bergevin will have to tackle this issue promptly unless he wants it to be decided by a third party.
As it stands, Eller is due for a raise. Despite his struggles in 2013-14, Eller has established himself as a key player on the team, as was evidenced by his performance in the playoffs when the majority of the Habs forwards were struggling to produce. For those who forgot, Eller finished second in points to P.K. Subban, and first among all forwards with an impressive five goals and eight assists in 17 games.
Marc Bergevin still has a few days before he leaves the contract in the hands of an independent arbitrator, however as it stands it seems like both parties are headed towards the July 25th scheduled hearing.
Here are the rules in terms of evidence that can be presented by both sides.
Subject to the limitations set forth in subsection (iii) below, the parties may present whatever witnesses, affidavits, documents and other relevant evidence they choose to present at the hearing. The salary arbitrator, on behalf of any party, or on his own behalf, may call witnesses or request documents or other evidence as he deems necessary to resolve the dispute. The salary arbitrator in his discretion shall be the judge of the relevancy and materiality of the evidence offered and/or the weight, if any, to attach to any evidence and shall not be bound by any formal legal rules of evidence. All evidence shall be presented in the presence of all the parties, unless a part is in default, having failed to appear for the hearing, or has waived his right to be present. Statistical evidence asserted in a party's affirmative case must be included in such party's brief in order to be admissible.
(ii) The parties may offer evidence of the following:
the overall performance, including National Hockey League official statistics (both offensive and defensive), of the Player in the previous season or seasons
|(B)||the number of games played by the Player, his injuries or illnesses during the preceding seasons;|
|(C)||the length of service of the Player in the League and/or with the Club;|
|(D)||the overall contribution of the Player to the competitive success or failure of his Club in the preceding season;|
any special qualities of leadership or public appeal not inconsistent with the fulfillment of his responsibilities as a playing member of his team;
the overall performance in the previous season or seasons of any Player(s) who is alleged to be comparable to the party Player whose salary is in dispute; and
The compensation of any Player(s) who is alleged to be comparable to the party Player, provided, however, that in applying this or any of the above subparagraphs, the Salary Arbitrator shall not consider a Player(s) to be comparable to the party Player unless a party to the salary arbitration has contended that the Player(s) is comparable; nor shall the Salary Arbitrator consider the compensation or performance of a Player(s) unless a party to the salary arbitration has contended that the Player(s) is comparable.
(iii) The following categories of evidence are inadmissible and shall not be considered by the Salary Arbitrator:
|(A)||Any SPC the term of which began when the Player party to such SPC was not a Group 2 Player;|
Any SPC entered into by an Unrestricted Free Agent, including SPCs signed by Players after the Player's Club has exercised a walk-away right pursuant to Section 12.10;
|(C)||The SPC of any Player who is not being offered as a comparable Player to the party Player;|
|(D)||Qualifying Offers made by the Club pursuant to Section 10.2(b);|
|(E)||Any prior offers or history of negotiations between the Player and the Club;|
|(F)||Testimonials, videotapes, newspaper columns, press game reports or similar materials;|
|(G)||Any reference to actual or potential walk-away rights;|
Any award issued by a Salary Arbitrator as to which a Club exercised its walk-away rights pursuant to Section 12.10;
|(I)||The financial condition of the Club or the League;|
|(J)||References to a Club's Upper or Lower Limit, or to the Players' Share;|
|(K)||Any salary arbitration award issued in 2005-2006; or|
Any reference to any salary or other compensation information in any salary arbitration opinion that took place prior to July 22, 2005. If any salary arbitration opinion issued prior to July 22, 2005 is cited as precedent, all references to any Player's Player Paragraph 1 Salary or other compensation information will be redacted.
The proceedings are run by the National Academy of Arbitrators (which is actually a real thing), and take place in Toronto.
Now that we have all the details out of the way, what can be expect from the Eller arbitration?
First of all, I fully expect Eller to make it to arbitration. His early season struggles, limited/tough usage by the coach and lack of powerplay ice time has likely muddied the contract extension waters.
General manager Marc Bergevin probably wants a "show me" type contract, meaning either a one year or two year extension, which happen to be the term choices when it comes to arbitration.
Lars Eller on the other hand would probably be fine with that term, since he's just about to hit his prime and would be able to cash in once the deal expires.
What should we expect in terms of salary?
Anywhere in the $2.75M to $3.25M range seems logical. Despite his struggles this season Eller has shown that he's a defensively responsible player that can still produce despite a lack of quality teammates, a lack of power play time and tough assignments.
Of course, his RFA status may impact his leverage somewhat, however the line between UFA and RFA contracts has been blurred in recent years, with more importance being given to actual production as opposed to the particular contract status.
It's tough to argue that Eller is worth less than the vast majority of players currently playing for a $3M per year salary, especially considering his best years are yet to come.