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Salary Arbitration: NHL Family Court

By August 4, 2009

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So you're an NHL veteran who wants to find out how much your team really appreciates you?

All you have to do is go to salary arbitration.

The arbitration room is where team and player fight it out, arguing over next season's salary.

This year's big "winner" was Rangers forward Nikolai Zherdev (pictured). The arbitrator decided he was worth a $3.9 million contract for 2009-10.

But the Rangers declined the deal, which is their right. So Zherdev is cut loose, joining the crowded ranks of NHL free agents.

The salary cap crunch has devalued the market for B-list scorers like Zherdev. Nobody is going to pay him $3.9 million, unless he's headed to Russia.

But Larry Brooks at the New York Post believes Zherdev wanted to be a free agent all along, and used arbitration to plot his path out of New York.

According to the list at TSN.ca, just four other NHL players went to salary arbitration this summer, and one of them decided to abandon the NHL before his hearing even happened.

The others were Washington defenseman Milan Jurcina, Vancouver scoring forward Kyle Wellwood, and Phoenix winger David Winnik.

All hands claim to be happy with the results in those cases.

It's too bad arbitration hearings are kept private. When it came time to make their case, you can bet the Rangers were quite frank in assessing Zherdev's weaknesses. The hearing probably had all the charm and good will of a divorce court.

Wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall when a guy like Rangers' general manager Glen Sather tells a guy like Zherdev what he really thinks?

  • How NHL Salary Arbitration Works: What evidence is and isn't admissible in the team-versus-player room.

    (Photo: Bruce Bennett /Getty Images)

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