Mike Heika did a great write up over on his Stars blog that you can find here and there is a wider story covering all defensemen across the league at NHL.com found here. I thought the idea behind this was interesting and thought it only right that an opinion is voiced on behalf of the legendary BlackoutDallas.com as well. That said here is the basic story in case you’ve been living in a hockey-hole and haven’t heard about this whole Shea Weber ordeal:
Essentially, the Predators couldn’t come to an agreement with Weber on how much money he should make. So, they went to arbitration to let an unbias party decide. Shea put forth his goal of 8.5 million next year and Nashville put forth their lowball attempt at 4.75. The strategy was clear going in that Nashville wanted the arbitrators to go somewhere in between the two, but when the decision came down 7.5 was the magic number. Clearly closer to the 8.5 asking price that the player put forth. While the implications of whether or not teams will take the arbitration route in order to get a much lower price on key players in the future are up in the air, the fact that this new price tag will set a new standard for defensemen pay-rates is obvious.
Everyone knows that when trying to get their clients money, the men behind the players use other players of comparable stature as a starting point for a sliding scale based on production and importance. So, I guess the bigger question that Mike Heika also asked is how does this effect the Stars current top defenseman, Alex “Goose” Goligoski?
With top pair ice time, Alex put up 15 points in 23 games last season. Math dictates that with the same ice time and fortune, that rate of production would put him firmly in the top-10 for defensemen scoring in the league next year. And he could very well do it despite a loss of Richards who likely facilitated some of those points as the offensive lubricant for most of the team at times last year. But Richards was out for a large part of that and players like he and Jamie Benn and the entire second line, continued to produce without him. While he may not be comparable to Shea Weber, as Weber is pretty much excellent at every part of being a defender; defending, producing and being physical, Goligoski would be considered a top d-man at that point by fan standards and for a team like the Stars, having a top-1o in anything on the back end is a big deal for the people packing the seats.
You will be comparing Goligoski to other defensemen directly, aside from Shea Weber, is the point. However, this arbitration decision will trickle down the league, no doubt. First with the few defensemen who are comparable to Shea directly then from there tier-by-tier pay rates will go up a bit, the continual increase in the salary cap will help facilitate this movement. So, while I can’t see Alex getting a 6 million dollar pay check, I could easily see him getting somewhere in the 5 range should he produce at the same rate next season and especially if the Stars sneak into the playoffs. Of course, we could see a Brad Richards situation come about if somehow the Stars still don’t have ownership in place when he becomes a free agent.
On most teams this would be a lot more straight forward, but considering all of the intangible obstacles the Stars are currently facing, it really makes the exact price hard to predict. It could go up or down based on whether or not they make the playoffs, have an owner or even trade for a big name once ownership is in place. So, despite the Shea Weber decision setting a new precedent for pay-rates, I think the Goligoski theory still just shows you how big an impact the team’s situation can have on how much a player gets paid. But, I do think there is a posibility that Goligoski could go somewhere else should the Stars bring in enough firepower on the blueline to shift him back down to the second pair when other teams struggling would be happy to have him on the top set.