by PuckStopsHere on 07/22/10 at 12:04 PM ET
Salary arbitration hearings began on Tuesday. Here is the arbitration schedule. Notice that most cases have been settled before the actual hearing. So far only two cases have been heard. On Tuesday, Jannik Hansen of the Vancouver Canucks had his case heard and yesterday Clarke MacArthur of the Atlanta Thrashers had his case heard. Usually there is a 48 hour delay after a case before the result is announced. The Hansen case has yet to be resolved. However, the MacArthur case was heard quickly and we have a result.
Clarke MacArthur was awarded a $2.4 million contract, but Atlanta walked away from the deal instead of accepting it. This was rumored before the arbitration hearing occurred.
Atlanta acquired significant depth at forward in their trades with the Chicago Blackhawks. They brought in Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien and Ben Eager in two trades with the Hawks. This made MacArthur an unnecessary part. Given a $2.4 million salary, he was expensive for somebody deemed unnecessary. I think the reason for the fast turnaround on the arbitration hearing is that Atlanta did not contest anything MacArthur said. They basically said they would walk away regardless of the outcome.
Clarke MacArthur was acquired by Atlanta from Buffalo in a trade deadline deal for a third and fourth round pick in 2010 (Buffalo chose Jerome Gauthier-Leduc and Stephen Shipley respectively with the picks). MacArthur had a 35 point season split between the Sabres and Thrashers last year. This is the best season to date in his young career. He is 25 years old and has played three seasons fully in the NHL and two more prior two them, with time split between the AHL and NHL. His Buffalo time was enough that he made the worst 20 adjusted +/- list this season. MacArthur was often overmatched in his role on the depth lines in Buffalo and Atlanta, but he plays well enough that he can score at a respectable level given his ice time.
The Atlanta Thrashers are currently below the NHL salary floor of $43.4 million, with a total payroll of just over $37 million with sixteen players signed. They only have eight NHL proven forwards signed with four as more restricted free agents (two more going to arbitration). Likely they need another NHL proven forward or two for depth and can sign them as bargains from the free agent leftovers.
MacArthur is now an unrestricted free agent and he is a free agent leftover. The biggest free agent contracts are usually signed near the beginning of the free agency period. With the exception of Ilya Kovalchuk, I doubt we will see any more significant contracts given out this summer. MacArthur will likely be picked up by some NHL team, but he will not get a salary anywhere near the $2.4 million that Atlanta walked away from.
Is letting Clarke MacArthur walk a good move for Atlanta? Maybe if they can fill his roster spot with a better, cheaper free agent (will they?). If they have no plans to fill it and this is a cost cutting move for a near salary floor team, it shows how tight money is in Atlanta. Atlanta cannot afford to have extra role players around and that is a handcuff that makes their success harder to achieve.
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