The Stars and Fabian Brunnstrom are scheduled to go to arbitration in Toronto Friday morning and it could be one of the more interesting cases the NHL has heard.
Because of Brunnstrom's complicated, bonus-laden free agent contract that was signed two years ago when the Stars wooed him from Sweden, his qualifying offer this season was a two-way deal. He could have accepted $826,000 at the NHL level and $65,000 at the AHL, but he decided to opt for arbitration instead. Now, the qualifying offer is off the table and not admissible in the hearing, so the two sides are starting from scratch.
The Stars will likely ask for a two-way contract with an NHL level that's even lower than the qualifying offer. Brunnstrom's agent J.P. Barry will ask for a one-way contract, but this is where things get interesting. Could Barry actually ask for an offer that is lower than the qualifying offer?
The arbitrator has the freedom to choose any compensation he deems proper, so by putting in his head that Brunnstrom is willing to take less money in exchange for a one-way contract, the Brunnstrom side is making a pretty good argument. Brunnstrom is a difficult player to find comparables for. He is 25, he has two years of NHL experience and he scored 17 goals in 55 games two seasons ago, so he obviously has NHL-level skills. However, he dropped to two goals and nine assists with a ton of healthy scratches in 44 games last season, so maybe he has not earned a one-way contract yet.
But how could an arbitrator turn down what would appear to be a good faith offer of less money in exchange for the one-way deal?
The minimum walk away level for an NHL arbitration hearing is $1,611,180, so Barry might shoot for the moon and ask for $1 million or more, but it would seem that he would be defeating his chance to get a one-way deal (which appears to be extremely important to Brunnstrom). Either way, the Stars will not be able to walk away from this hearing. They will either have Brunnstrom on a two-way contract or have him on a one-way deal. So what does it mean if they get him on a one-way deal? It means they would have 13 forwards in house with RFA James Neal the 14th and an open invitation to Jere Lehtinen to become the 15th. That would clearly push them to make a move or two.
So this will be interesting to watch.
The two sides can come to a deal before the hearing, but it doesn't seem like that's going to happen.
After the hearing, the arbitrator has 48 hours to come up with a decision. We will wait and watch.