Hey! Long time no see. Sorry about the general lack of blog updates as of late…summer can be weird about taking oneself away from the computer. But I found myself with some downtime and thought I’d give my thoughts on what looks to be a fairly important day for the Canucks.
For those unaware, Mason Raymond’s arbitration ruling is set to be handed down later today. This is important for a number of reasons: first, there is a lot of anxiety over exactly how much Raymond will end up with in his arbitration award. Atlanta Thrashers forward Clarke MacArthur ended up with a $2.4M award last week, a rather substantial contract for someone who only notched 16 goals and 35 points last season. The Thrashers chose to walk away from the ruling, something which Mike Gillis could do if he were so inclined. So, whether or not Raymond stays with the club and how much he’d cost were he to stay will be known today.
I personally expect that Gillis will accept whatever the arbitrator hands out, barring a completely insane ruling (which I don’t think will happen.)
The other reason as to why today is so important is that Mason’s ruling will let Gillis know exactly how much money he has left to spend. The Canucks have been in a sort of a holding pattern ever since July 1st when they picked up Dan Hamhuis and Manny Malhotra. It’s been expected that Kevin Bieksa will be moved before training camp, Sami Salo’s recent injury notwithstanding. Raymond’s arbitration award will likely be the domino that sets into place the rest of whatever moves Mike Gillis will be making this offseason.
Will the Canucks see more free agent signing(s) to round out the bottom six? Will Bieksa simply bring back picks and/or prospects in any prospective deals or will there be something more substantial on the table? Very unclear until Raymond’s arbitration award is handed out.
As for the decision itself. I know some folks are concerned over how much exactly Raymond is going to get. There were comments made by Raymond’s agent, JP Barry, on the Team 1040 last week that supposedly has Raymond looking in the neighborhood of $3.5-$4.0M. Taking the MacArthur decision into consideration and it’s understandable how the Canucks could be footing the bill to a rather heavy caphit.
But I don’t think that’s going to be the case, for a couple of reasons. The first is that Rick Dudley, the GM of the Atlanta Thrashers, apparently didn’t make much of a case at MacArthur’s arbitration hearing. Depending on what rumors you listen to, Dudley wasn’t even present at the actual hearing itself. So, it’s hard to render a fair decision when one side doesn’t take the time to lay out a decent argument against giving a ton of money to a player. Gillis has made it very clear that he thinks very highly of Mason Raymond (see his post-Ballard trade comments at the draft if you don’t believe me) and will be coming out swinging for his hearing.
The second reason is that the criteria for what is and isn’t allowed as ‘evidence’ for arbitration hearings is very particular and limited. Since the Thrashers walked away from the arbitration award, JP Barry can’t point to his contract and say ‘Raymond deserves a similar award.’ All the anxiety over MacArthur’s contract being a factor can go away, in other words.
And, okay, fine. Let’s assume that MacArthur’s ruling shows that the arbitrators this offseason are going to be siding with the players rather than the GMs. Hold on, let me put on my tinfoil hat. Okay, that’s better. Even assuming that, this brings me to my third point: Clarke MacArthur made $1.4M last season. While the cap hit of $2.4M doesn’t seem to match up too well with MacArthur’s own performance, MacArthur was only seeing a $1.0M raise over his last contract, or a 70% increase.
Looking at Mason Raymond, he made $800,000 last season. In order to get the $3.5-$4.0M contract JP Barry is hoping for, we’d have to see Raymond get a 400-500% increase in salary which, even in the world of professional sports, seems a little too optimistic in my mind.
Take a look at Kyle Wellwood, the only other player who went to arbitration who is comparable to Raymond. Wellwood had several seasons of being a 40 point player and had his best season as a goal scorer in 08/09 with the Canucks. He went to arbitration and only saw a $200,000 raise. Again, I’d argue that Mike Gillis will have been prepared and made a solid case for what he thinks Raymond should get.
Which brings me to my last point. There is a solid case that can be made against Raymond getting that dreaded $3.5-$4.0M contract. He’s young and unproven at being a consistent NHL contributor. Yes, he did put together an impressive season this year: 25 goals and 53 points and yes, he has improved every year he has been with the Canucks.
But consider this: of those 25 goals, only 8 were scored in the last 41 games of the season, and he only went on to score 3 goals in 12 playoff games. Consistency is the one major issue with Raymond. If you look at his point totals from 07/08, his rookie year, to 08/09, there is an increase in games played from 49 to 72, but only a 2 goal difference in points totals.
Keep in mind: I’m not bagging on Raymond here, I’m simply pointing out that he isn’t quite yet deserving of that big money contract. I imagine that he’ll end up with an award between $2.75-$3.0M. A rather substantial pay raise, but it’s one I think he’s deserving of given the gains he has made and the potential he shows.