Does Salary Arbitration Create Animosity?

Ever go to your boss and ask for a raise?  We all have, and we all know how it works.  We typically have a number in mind that we want, and for fear of a low ball offer we increase that number slightly in hopes that we get as close to it as possible.  We try to sell ourselves on why we feel we’re worth the money and our boss in many cases counters with a figure that’s not even close.  We haggle, we negotiate, and at some point, provided we don’t hear the old “it’s just not in the budget this year”, we get something, but more often than not it’s not close to the number what we wanted.  And then it starts.  You know….. the animosity.  The bad feelings and the thoughts of leaving because we want to be rewarded for our value, and we feel that either we aren’t appreciated, or we’ll never make enough money here as well as advance up the ladder to be happy.

In my previous life (before my current career) I worked in retail as a store manager.  Held my position for 10 long grueling years, and had reached a point where I truly felt I was underpaid.  Raises came annually in December and for the most part they were acceptable, and early in that career quite healthy.  Two years in a row however they weren’t, and I voiced my opinion after year two.  I remember preparing for the meeting with my store owner not knowing how things would go,  and how I had a list of things that I wanted to say regarding my worth.  Long story short, my boss and I didn’t agree.  For every reason I had that validated my number, he had three (so he thought) about why he couldn’t match it.  I had been looking to advance my career anyway and because this was the “icing on the cake”, after a few months I left.  That day in December when we couldn’t agree on my salary left a bad taste in my mouth and he knew it.  I made up my mind right then and there I was done.  I continued to give 110% effort in my work cause that’s how I am, but I knew in my mind and in my heart I could no longer stay there. 

When a player like Shea Weber for example, gets to arbitration the situation is relatively the same isn’t it?  Weber and his agent asked the Nashville Predators for $8.5 million dollars, while the Predators countered with $4.5 million.  A wide spread indeed.  Weber was awarded $7.5 million from his arbitration hearing.  Sometimes I think we’d like to have a judge decide our pay raise too, but we all know that’s not a realistic expectation.  Weber has clearly indicated that while it’s not all about the money, he does feel that his play is worth what he’s asking for, especially when compared to other NHL defenceman.  But he’s also clearly indicated that he wants to win a championship.  Who doesn’t?

In order for Nashville to keep Weber in the fold they need to assemble a roster that can challenge for the Stanley Cup.  That will cost more……money.  It will require that they attract the right kind of players. If Weber who becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2013 doesn’t like what he sees by then he’s gone.  The Predators will have to decide if they let him walk for nothing at that time, or trade him and hope to get something in return prior.  Sound familiar Panther fans?  Jay Bouwmeester in a similar situation wouldn’t sign a long term deal if the Panthers couldn’t somehow prove that they were headed in the right direction (playoffs).  He wanted to play in the post season and felt that unless Florida could show him they were serious in building a winner, he didn’t want to stay.  Jacques Martin and his sidekick Randy Sexton tried to convince Jay for over 18 months that the Panthers would start winning.  As we know it never happened, and they ended up trading Jay to Calgary for the rights to Jordan Leopold and a draft pick.  Leopold was signed, but ultimately traded, and in theory the Panthers have nothing to show for a player whom many people thought was the best defencemen they’d seen since Igor Ulanov Robert Svhela.  By the way, how are those playoffs working out for ya Jay?

The Weber situation is similar to Bouwmeester except for two things.  One, Nashville is a good hockey team.  The last two seasons they’ve proven that they’re close to being a true contender.  They had the Chicago Blackhawks on the ropes in the first round of 2010 before losing in 6 games, and almost beat the Vancouver Canucks this past season in the second round.  Two, the other difference is that Shea Weber is a stud defenceman.  They kind of player you build your team around.  Put him and Jaybo next to each other and it’s night and day.  To be $4 million dollars apart is a big number.  Nashville may have blown this one here, but as Puck Daddy explains, getting to arbitration helped Nashville from losing him to an offer sheet.

So who’s side am I on?  Well compared to us working stiffs, it’s different and it’s the same.  Everyone wants to be paid what they’re worth and move up the ladder.  In the working world, sometimes the only way to get those rewards is to move on.   In the game of hockey, or other sports for that matter, you not only want to be paid what you feel is your value, but you also want to win.  Contracts in sports are outlandish, but they are market driven and players want to be paid in comparison to other players in the same position based on a number of factors.  Many people here in Florida became disenchanted with Jay when he wouldn’t commit to a long term deal. The Panthers tried to show good faith in offering Jay a long term deal, but Jay didn’t feel that the team was headed in a positive direction and he wanted proof that they were.  The Panthers missed the playoffs due to a tie breaker that final season that Jay was here, and if you recall his play over the last couple months suffered miserably.  Proof in my mind that he couldn’t handle the pressure.  The deals that were on the table that Florida passed on for the 18 months or so prior were curiously passed up.  Players like Chris Pronger, Jeff Carter, Claude Giroux, Jason Spezza and AntioneVermette to name a few could have been Panthers.

That ship has sailed and now Nashville and Shea Weber will go through the same thing.  David Poile the Predators GM will try to convince Weber to sign a long term deal as the season progresses.  There are other players that Nashville has to keep as well and curiously they are another defenceman (Ryan Suter) and a goaltender (Pekka Rinne).  This is a pretty good team with one hell of a coach (Barry Trotz), but unless they sign or trade for a high profile offensive player, things will most likely never change.

Sports has become such a business at times and I wish it hadn’t.  Gone are the days when a player plays his entire career for a team.  Probably one reason why I never bought a sweater with a player’s name on it.  Then  there’d be animosity between me and the team!

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Tags: Chicago Blackhawks Creating Animosity Jay Bouwmeester Jordan Leopold Nashville Predators Playoffs Salary Arbitration Shea Weber Vancouvber Canucks

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