Kyle Wellwood’s arbitration hearing is just over a week away on July 28. Not to say that Wellwood and the Canucks can’t reach an agreement before then, but if they don’t, then what can we expect?
First, because He is entitled to be a group 3 free agent at the end of the next season (2009/2010), the arbitration award will be a one-year term. (Though maybe someone more well-versed on the intricacies of the CBA can correct me on this.)
Second, Mike Gillis won’t be bringing a scale to the arbitration hearing.
Finding comparables (and his rollercoaster of a career so far) is tricky. On the one hand, Wellwood reported to camp last season horribly out of shape, passed through waivers – even re-entry waivers – twice, and was a healthy scratch a few times. On the other hand, he still scored a career-high 18 goals (including 10 on the powerplay – top 40 in the NHL), had a shooting percentage of 19.1% (3rd in NHL), won 57.5% of his faceoffs (he took more faceoffs than anyone on the Canucks except for Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler). All in only 13 minutes of ice-time per game. It gets trickier because the arbitration process uses past statistics to establish a player’s salary, but in an ideal situation, a player’s salary should be paid based on projected performance.
That said, I’m going to give it a try and throw out some possible comparables out there. Note that for the purpose of this post, I only looked at players in the same age range (born in 1982 or 1983 and drafted in 2001 or 2002) who signed short-term contracts that takes them to unrestricted free agency (like Wellwood’s will).
(* – Numbers in parentheses are per game averages. Ruutu and Stajan signed their RFA contracts in 2008 and their numbers are as of the end of the 2007/2008 season.)
So who does Kyle compare to?
With big numbers in their first couple of seasons and some dips recently, it seems that his career trend follows Chris Higgins and Petr Prucha. In salary terms, the difference is a contract worth $2.25 million/year or one worth $1.1 million/year. (For what it’s worth, there were rumors earlier this off-season that Mike Gillis had offered Wellwood a two-year deal worth $1.75 million/year.)
Of course, the big question is where both parties project his career to be in the next year or two. Is he a top-six forward? Or is he a 2nd/3rd line tweener who won’t hurt the team defensively and also chip in offensively? He had both success and shortcomings in both roles this past season and in the playoffs. And if the Canucks do see him as a tweener, then can he beat out Cody Hodgson, who, by most accounts, the team would like to see make the roster.
If Wellwood and the Canucks don’t settle on a contract before July 28, it sure will be interesting to see how both sides argue their respective points.