With free agency slowed to a crawl, the next bit of intrigue on the NHL's calendar will be a slew of arbitration hearings, the first of which are set to get underway on Wednesday.
Below are the 20 players who were originally given arbitration dates. Those who have already signed contracts and won't proceed to their hearings are crossed out:
July 20: Lauri Korpikoski (Phoenix), Teddy Purcell (Tampa Bay),
Viktor Stalberg (Chicago) July 21: Andrew Cogliano (Anaheim), Brad Richardson (Los Angeles), Brandon Dubinsky (NY Rangers) July 22: Ryan Wilson (Colorado) July 25: Andrej Sekera (Buffalo), Brian Boyle (Rangers) July 26: Kevin Porter (Colorado) July 28: Josh Gorges (Montreal), Ryan Callahan (Rangers) July 29: Jannik Hansen (Vancouver) Aug. 2: Shea Weber (Nashville) Aug. 3: Chris Campoli (Chicago), Blake Wheeler (Winnipeg), Zach Parise (New Jersey) Aug. 4: Mark Fraser (New Jersey), Dan Sexton (Anaheim), Blake Comeau (NY Islanders)
Of those 14 that remain without a deal, Weber and Parise are obviously the ones to watch the closest, as both involve franchise players who stand to earn big, big money and be used as comparables for other restricted free agents.
The fact all these players don't yet have deals gives you a good idea of just how difficult negotiations have been. Cogliano, for one, has been dealt by the Oilers to the Ducks rather than go through the process, while the Blackhawks signed Sami Lepisto the other day and announced they don't intend to bring Campoli back.
The hearings themselves will begin at 9 a.m. and the player/NHLPA side and team/NHL side get an hour and a half to present their case. After that point, an independent arbitrator weighs in within 48 hours, generally picking a number between the two proposed by each side.
If the player is the one who elected to go to arbitration, which is often the case, teams can walk away from any award that is more than roughly $1.7-million. Less than that and they're stuck with it.
What's worth noting, however, is that in recent years the majority of cases never actually get to the hearing. The teams, agents and players involved like to avoid the animosity that comes along with the process, something I've written about the past couple of years with reference to Clarke MacArthur's case with the Thrashers and Shaone Morrison's with the Capitals.
My sense is only four or five of those listed will in fact have to go through the process this time around, with many re-signing in the hours leading up to their hearing. If it's Weber or Parise, however, it will attract a lot of attention, as arbitration has a way of poisoning the well in terms of the relationships involved.
UPDATE Wheeler re-signed on July 18.