I spent my Saturday working in shifts, starting at 9 AM, covering the exploits of the Red Wings’ European-playing prospects, and then watching Twitter for news regarding Tyler Bertuzzi’s imminent arbitration hearing with the Red Wings.
I did not assume that Bertuzzi and his agent, Todd Reynolds of Uptown Hockey (per PuckPedia), would actually get to the point that they’d head to a Zoom-facilitated arbitration hearing against the Red Wings tomorrow at 9 AM, but as of Saturday at 10:30 PM, it appears that the Bertuzzi and the Wings will be presenting briefs to support their arbitration “asks” unless there’s a contractual agreement in the next 11 hours.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported both sides’ positions on Thursday:
Arbitration filing for Tyler Bertuzzi (DET): Team is $3.15M; player is $4.25M.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) October 23, 2020
Bertuzzi made $1.4 million per season on his last two-year deal, and last season, he posted 21 goals and 28 assists for 49 points in 71 games played. T
hat kind of one-season production can indeed yield anywhere from a $3.15 million salary to somewhere closer to $4.25 million, depending on the agent and team negotiating salary and benefits, and neither “ask” is unreasonable at this point.
Now both sides have until
the arbitrator makes his or her ruling the hearing to come to a contract agreement (per the NHL-NHLPA Memorandum of Understanding), so there’s still room for negotiation here, but Bertuzzi’s representatives may feel that it’s most expedient to wait the 48-to-72-hours that the neutral arbitrator from the Center For Arbitration in Sport makes their decision (which will be either a one or two-year contract).
Salary arbitration has come a long way from the bad old days, when Mike Milbury once made Tommy Salo cry during an arbitration hearing, and players and teams’ representatives would rend their relationships irreparably damaged by disparaging each other in verbal fistfights…
But arbitration is still not a pleasant experience as one side tries to prove that a player has not made the progress necessary to receive their “ask,” and the other insists that the team’s low-ball offer is just short of an insult.
The one thing we don’t know about all of this is how Steve Yzerman behaves during salary arbitration.
You and I both know by now that Ken Holland basically viewed a player and his agent actually taking the Detroit Red Wings to salary arbitration as a personal affront, as the few players who actually went to arbitration with the Wings were inevitably traded away.
Whether Yzerman views the arbitration process as something that can rend player and team apart is another matter, and he and his management team may very well view the arbitration process as an expedient means by which to get contractual business done, even if some egos are bruised along the way.
It’s not pleasant to hear one’s performance diminished by your team if you’re a player, and it’s not fun to hear your estimation of your asset challenged if you’re a manager, but arbitration is as bad as the agent and management choose to make it. For Ken Holland, it was an ordeal and an affront; for Yzerman, it may be similar, but it may be different.
Either way, we know that the Wings had let it be known that the team had chosen to discuss contract turkey with Anthony Mantha first, and Yzerman spoke of Bertuzzi’s arbitration filing as a matter of business to be taken care of during his free agency conference calls. The fact that the team hasn’t historically taken players to arbitration (or been forced to use the arbitrator’s hand by their players) is well-known, but Yzerman said during the conference calls that the team would be both speaking with Bertuzzi’s representatives and preparing their briefs at the same time.
Long story long, we’re at a point of possible conflict that the Yzerman-led Wings haven’t entered into as of yet, and whether this damages the relationship between player and team will probably be determined over the course of the hearing itself. Either way, there should be a contractual solution over the next 48 to 72 hours, hopefully sooner.