10:35AM ET Update: If you are reading this update, a new development has occurred that makes the following post no longer relevant. The New Jersey Devils announced at 9:54 AM ET 52 minutes after this post was up, That team and Jesper Bratt agreed to a $5.45 million one-season contract and there will be No Arbitration hearing. My response to that news is in this post, discussing what it means and what’s next for the Devils now. I am so glad this post has aged like summer milk; Avoiding an arbitration hearing is great news. For posterity, the post will be kept as it is in the archives, but with comments closed and removed from the first page.
If you are reading this post it means New Jersey Devils And banned free agent Jesper Bratt is currently in an arbitration hearing. To remind you, that would be Jesper Bratt, Arguably the team’s best player last season. Per the NHL Contract Bargaining Agreement, all arbitration hearings take place at 9 a.m. ET, unless otherwise agreed by the league and union. And It has been confirmed that this hearing is indeed at 9 a.m. ET. Bratt’s hearing was set for August 3., That is, today. It’s 9 AM ET. Short of some crazy, unheard of surprise, this is happening if you’re reading this.
This arbitration hearing was filed by Bratt and his representation. This is a common action by RFAs who are eligible for arbitration. While teams can keep player rights with a qualifying motion (which was issued by the Devils), an arbitration hearing can force negotiations to proceed more quickly. Or at least before a scheduled hearing actually happens. It’s controversial now, because if you’re reading this, an arbitration hearing is taking place.
Section 12 of the NHL CBA – By NHLPA Available Here – Covers all the requirements that are not allowed in the hearing of the actual results, from the filing of the arbitration hearing to the scheduling. Here are the highlights of Section 12 to give you an idea of what’s going on:
- Both the player and the team have to file a claim before the arbitration hearing. Elliot Friedman gave this news on Monday. The Devils claim $4.15 million. Bratt’s claim is $6.5 million.
- Each side’s claims are filed in a concise form with evidence and comparisons to justify each argument. The general procedure (you can read section 12.9) for all the procedural details would be that each party would argue its case, the other party would have a chance to provide a rebuttal, and then when all was done, the arbitrator would then decide. What will be the next contract? Per 12.9(k), unless the arbitrator wants a different format, Brat and his side will go first; then the devil; Then Bratt and his side will provide rebuttal and closing arguments; Then Satan will do the same; And then it’s up to the mediator.
- As Bratt filed for arbitration, the Devils would choose whether the arbitration award would be for a one-season or two-season contract. If the Devils choose nothing, it’s a one-season contract.
- Briefly there are limits to what evidence must be provided and what can be used. I’ll try to write it from 12.9(g) because that’s important to know.
- Can use: Overall performance as defined by NHL official statistics; sports played, sports being injured or sick; length of service with the team and/or the NHL; overall contribution of the player; “Any characteristic of leadership or public appeal that is not inconsistent with the fulfillment” of their responsibilities to the team; any comparable players and their performance; and compensation of any comparable players.
- may not use: any contract with a non-Group 2 player, the UFA, or any player who is not being offered as comparable; qualification proposal; any previous negotiations or proposals; any “testimonials, videotapes, newspaper columns, press game reports, or similar material;” the financial status of the NHL or teams; any reference to walk-away rights; and any arbitration award of 2005-06 or earlier.
- The arbitration decision must be issued to both the parties within 48 hours after the end of the hearing. At the latest, we will know the result by 5th August.
- The decision will set out a brief description of the length of the contract, NHL and minor league salaries, and the reasons for the decision. Unless I am misreading 12.9(n), no signing bonus or other clauses are issued in the contract as decided by the arbitrator.
- Neither the Devils or the Bratt may publicize the arbitration process until the decision is issued.
- Because Bratt elected to arbitration and the filing is worth more than $3.5 million, the Devils can decide to walk away from the award within 48 hours after the decision is issued by the arbitration. If the Devils walk away, Brat immediately becomes a UFA and can sign whoever he wants.
- And here’s an important wrinkle from the MoU that was signed in 2020 that allowed the NHL CBA (Also on NHLPA website): Once the arbitration hearing has started, no further talks can be held. Before 2020, a team and players can still negotiate a contract as hearings are underway. It can’t happen now. They go from being the numbers for a game of filing chicken to the cases each side will argue for.
There is much more to it than this regarding proceedings and other clauses, but these are the main points to know. Because of that last one, it means that the hearing has two possible outcomes:
- The arbitrator issues a judgment, the Devils accept it, and Bratt is a freak for a salary between $4.15 million and $6.5 million.
- The arbiter issues a decision, the Devils walk away from it, and Bratt is now a UFA.
However, the reality is that arbitration hearings are often detrimental to the relationship between player and team. It is common for one or both sides to come out of the hearing more unhappy than before and this results in a player trade. It’s easy for you and me to be objective about it.
But you and I are not in the room (or on a remote call) directly what your team is listening to really thinks of you and why you not really Worth getting paid that much. The Devils aren’t going to argue anything about a long-term deal or how much they love Brat. They are going to argue why he is worth the $4.15 million contract. Bratt and his representation are going to argue over why he deserves a $6.5 million contract. Both sides are going to have a chance to contest why the other side is wrong in its assessment. There is not going to be any sudden deviation from either side in the hearing. According to the CBA, they have to make an “affirmative case,” which I interpret as what they’ve filed they will have to argue for.
This is often controversial as the two sides are arguing with each other at odds. The goal is not to come to terms; The goal is to persuade the arbitrator to rule more in his favor. The resulting arguments are often cold and harsh. Mental preparation is often not enough to hear cold, hard arguments from both sides. Even if the prize is favorable to the player, arguments about a low deal by the team hurt. Often, players and/or management are more unhappy after a hearing than before. Who wants a miserable player in the locker room before training camp and regular season? Who believes an unhappy management will stand by a player, especially if they lose arbitration? Who thinks an unhappy player will have a good season and then later settle a long deal with management that no longer likes the player?
As a result, it is very common that arbitration hearings end with some sort of trickery. Either the player bolts as quickly as UFA or a trade is made because of that. This has happened with Devils before. This has happened to other players. Just ask Tomas Tatar. This third possibility is quite real. So, there is legitimate reason to be concerned about Bratt’s future in New Jersey now that this arbitration hearing is taking place.
(I will point out that the damage done may not be permanent. For example: Bobby Hollick, Scott Gomez, and Claude Lemieux were all unhappy after their arbitration hearing and either moved on when they could trade or got away. Gone. They all come back to organizations in the future. Time and experience can heal wounds. But not immediately.)
Less than a miracle for Bratt being so objective about his career that he’s willing to let go of what he’s told at the hearing, Bratt’s future in New Jersey is highly questionable. Given that the Devils don’t have another player of the quality of Jesper Bratt yet ready to emerge in the wing, hearing this is happening, is bad news. (No, Ondrej Platoon isn’t like that.) The team will be worse off for it, even if Bratt doesn’t immediately repeat his 2021-22 campaign in 2022-23. If he takes the prize and keeps legitimate beef with management from the hearing he probably won’t do it.
Whom can you blame? It depends on how you look at it. Sure, you can blame Bratt and his agent, Joachim Persson. Maybe they are difficult. Maybe not. a A quick glance at PuckPedia doesn’t reveal a long client list for Persson. Or anyone who recently went to an arbitration hearing unless I’m forgetting someone. Besides, I’m not sure why I should be angry with Bratt, who wants to be paid really well. Despite how bad the Devils were last season, they had a terrible season. This is a sport where one bad accident can change or end a career. I can’t blame Bratt or Persson, whose job it really is to get the best deal for their customers, demanding a price for their services. That said, there is a fine line between working for the best deal and asking for too much. I cannot rule out the possibility that the latter was happening in connection with a long-term deal.
However, it takes two to tango and so some of the blame may also go to Fitzgerald and the management. That their filings exceed $2 million means they are far from over. Even though there was a theater on Monday, today it is a reality. I’m sure the Devils offered a more attractive long-term deal. Given that this hearing is taking place, the deal was clearly not good enough. And the team didn’t add another scoring winger resembling Bratt’s talent, so they put themselves in a position to sign him or risk losing him. essentially playing “chicken” with a guy who just Scored 73 points in 76 games Last season isn’t a constructive choice (or look at the rest of the NHL) despite a team with a terrible power play and terrible results. Bratt and Persson filed this hearing for something to happen and Fitzgerald and his staff did not. They could not or could not or should not have done. The team is not completely innocent for this hearing happening.
Absent in the dialogue between the two sides, I have to assume that the truth lies somewhere in the middle and therefore everyone has some to blame. After all, this hearing is happening, it’s going to be a worst-case scenario for both sides. Brat is not going to get paid as much as he could have; The Devil cannot shut it down according to his will; And the trial will end with a truncated contract and a high probability that Brat will not be the devil for long. And so the blame game is just lame. It doesn’t matter. If you’re reading this, it’s already too late.
Now we can only wait until the hearing is over, the arbitrator’s decision is announced, and we see what happens next for Jesper Bratt and the New Jersey Devils organization.