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Danny DeKeyser elects Salary Arbitration, potentially does the Red Wings a favor

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This decision could be a blessing in disguise for the Red Wings

New York Ranges v Detroit Red Wings

Today marked the deadline in free agency for arbitration-eligible restricted free agents to file for salary arbitration in order to get a new deal worked out prior to the 2016-17 NHL season. We’ve got a big one to report today, as Danny DeKeyser made such an election (and equally big consideration that Mrazek did not).

For a full refresher on salary arbitration, check out our Getting to Know the CBA article on the topic. Here are the basics you need to know right now:

  • DeKeyser and the Wings will have an arbitration hearing scheduled between July 20th through August 4th. The schedule will come out after all all arbitration elections are made (The team-elected deadline is July 6th, so it would be decided soon).
  • DeKeyser will not be eligible to sign an offer sheet with another club at this point.
  • The Red Wings will not trade DeKeyser until he has a contract in place now.
  • There is nothing preventing DeKeyser and the Red Wings from coming to a deal prior to their arbitration hearing and cancelling the process.

Deciding the Term/Salary

Ordinarily, since DeKeyser elected arbitration, the Red Wings would be given their choice of whether the deal decided by the arbitrator would be for one or two years. However, since DeKeyser is only one year shy of becoming eligible for unrestricted free agency, the term of the deal will be for one year.

If both sides move to have an arbitration hearing, they will each present their case for why they feel DeKeyser should get what they’re suggesting and then the arbitrator will decide how much he/she feels is fair. The arbitrator is not held to a requirement to agree with one side or the other, but may split the difference to any degree that can be defended.

While it’s impossible to tell right now what would happen, I think setting the expectation somewhere around $5M would make sense.

Walk-Away Rights

If it goes to Arbitration and DeKeyser is awarded a one-year deal in excess of $3.9M (which is extremely likely), the Red Wings will have the option of simply walking away from such a decision and making DeKeyser an unrestricted free agent a year early.

The Benefits/Drawbacks

The arbitration process would involve DeKeyser’s agent arguing the special case and the numbers which indicate that DDK is worth as much money as possible. After that’s done, it would be up to Ken Holland to explain just how bad and worthless DeKeyser is when it comes to him asking for such an amount. While all is fair in arbitration and negotiation, it’s hard to imagine that having your GM tell somebody you’re not worth to close the amount you asked for isn’t going to have some sort of psychological effect.

It’s also a one-year deal which makes DK a free agent. However, whether you consider this a benefit or a drawback is up to you.

  • On the one hand, kicking the can down the road where the player is going to be a UFA and will have a lot more leverage to getting a longer/more-lucrative deal keeps the Red Wings from being able to potentially lock up Dekeyser on a longer term that’s friendlier to their cap situation.
  • On the other hand, there are significant concerns about DeKeyser’s ability to truly lead the Red Wings defense in a way that makes him worth the contract he might be able to grab on the open market, especially considering we just got a reminder of the kind of deals the open market gives out.

DeKeyser has spent the last two seasons taking on heavy shutdown duties for a team that hasn’t been able to heavily shut down teams. While his performance in that role hasn’t been great, the argument about him being saddled with the likes of Kyle Quincey and Jonathan Ericsson leave a lot of questions open about whether he’s been held back or whether he’s simply a limiting factor.

It’s all Still Hypothetical

As a reminder, the Red Wings tend to come to contract terms with players well before arbitration hearings happen. Jiri Hudler was the last time they actually went to a hearing. Previously, they had been able to cancel the process with Gustav Nyquist, Kyle Quincey, and Valtteri Filppula. It’s reasonable to expect a player filing for arbitration as something of a show of faith in the negotiating process (since it keeps him from filing an offer sheet).

If DeKeyser does carry this through all the way to arbitration though, it may very well be saving the Red Wings from themselves, as locking up still-unproven players to long deals is an easy path to salary cap problems.

As for Mrazek? We’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out whether the Red Wings will elect to take him to arbitration.