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NHL salary arbitration, explained: How restricted free agent contracts are settled by a third party

We have entered into the free agency portion of the NHL offseason, as a plethora of players are signing new deals and headed to different teams.

However, for certain free agents, it’s not just as easy as signing wherever they want for however much they want. Restricted free agents are just — restricted. Their team owns their rights and the two sides must come to an agreement on a new contract.

One of the ways for discussing a new deal is going to salary arbitration. Players or teams can elect to go to a third party in order to figure out the salary amount of their upcoming contract. The NHL is one of the just two major US sports leagues to use the arbitration system, with the MLB being the other one.

MORE: Who are the NHL’s highest-paid players in 2022-23?

Here is a deeper look into what salary arbitration is in the NHL.

What is salary arbitration in the NHL?

Salary arbitration is a tool used in the NHL to settle contract disputes between teams and certain restricted free agents.

Players can file for salary arbitration, in addition to teams electing to take a player to arbitration. Once that is filed, a hearing date will be determined during a two-week span, but the two sides can continue to negotiate and come up with a new contract before the hearing. For example, in 2021, every player that filed for arbitration settled before their hearing, according to CapFriendly.

Both the player and the team present a salary for the upcoming season to a neutral third party. The two sides will argue their case to the arbitrator.

The evidence that is allowed to be presented during these hearings included a player’s performance/statistics, injury history, length of service, leadership qualities and contribution to the team’s results.

Teams/players cannot use other players’ salaries or the state of the team’s cap situation during these discussions.

The arbitrator determines what the salary should be for the player, which must come no more than 48 hours after the hearing has concluded. If a team elects to decline the decision made by the arbitrator, then the player becomes an unrestricted free agent and they can sign with any team.

A player can only be taken to arbitration once in his career and can never receive less than 85% of his salary from the previous season. A player can request arbitration as many times as they are eligible and can ask for any amount of salary.

Who is eligible to file for salary arbitration?

Restricted free agents are the only kind of players who can file for salary arbitration.

Players 18-20 must have four years of NHL experience before they are eligible, someone that is 21 must have three, a player 22-23 years old must have two and a player 24 or older must have 1. A player earns a year of NHL experience by playing in at least 10 NHL contests.

Complete list of players who filed for salary arbitration in 2022

There were 24 players total that filed for salary arbitration this offseason. Some of the most notable names on the list were Devils forwards Jesper Bratt, Flames forwards Andrew Mangiapane and Oilers forwards Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi.

Niko Mikkola filed for arbitration with the Blues, but the two sides agreed on a one-year contract before the negotiation period.

Here is a look at the players that filed for arbitration.

  • Mason Appleton (Winnipeg Jets)

  • Ethan BearCarolina Hurricanes

  • Jesper Bratt (New Jersey Devils)

  • Lawson CrouseArizona Coyotes

  • Morgan Geekie (Seattle Kraken)

  • Mathieu Joseph (Ottawa Senators)

  • Kaapo Kahkonen (San Jose Sharks)

  • Kasperi Kapanen (Pittsburgh Penguins)

  • Keegan Kolesar (Vegas Golden Knights)

  • Oliver Kylington (Calgary Flames)

  • Maxime LajoieCarolina Hurricanes

  • Steven Lorentz (San Jose Sharks)

  • Isaac Lundestrom (Anaheim Ducks)

  • Zack MacEwen (Philadelphia Flyers)

  • Niko Mikkola (St.Louis Blues)

  • Andrew Mangiapane (Calgary Flames)

  • Matthew Phillips (Calgary Flames)

  • Jesse Puljujarvi (Edmonton Oilers)

  • Tyce Thompson (New Jersey Devils)

  • Yakov Trenin (Nashville Predators)

  • Vitek Vanecek (New Jersey Devils)

  • Jake Walman (Detroit Red Wings)

  • Kailer Yamamoto (Edmonton Oilers)

  • Pavel Zacha (Boston Bruins)

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