Is There Bad Blood As Patrick Kaleta Is Taken To Arbitration?
Typically, a player elects to go to salary arbitration to elicit a bigger pay-day from his current club. Much, much less common is a team taking a player to arbitration. That’s what the Sabres did with Patrick Kaleta, making it the only case of team-elected arbitration this season. He’ll be under contract for one or two years, depending on what the arbitrator decides, but it just feels wrong.
Last night, Ken Campbell of The Hockey News published a story pointing out the Sabres used the rare team-elected salary arbitration clause on Patrick Kaleta and how it had been used in the past or could be used in the present. Campbell brings up a good point that it would most-ably be used as a threat during negotiations with free agents (as per his example, Jaro Halak – congrats to Doug Armstrong on a great deal to bring him in and then sign him, by the way). But I think there’s an underlying current of forcing a player that wants to maybe leave to stay, a la the “franchise” tag in the NFL.
In the NFL if a team and a player come to an impasse during contract negotiations, the team will play the “franchise” card and force the player into a one-year deal for a set salary amount (how it’s determined, I don’t know – I’m not an NFL fan). This prevents the player from getting a big pay-day from another team, but it also fosters ill feelings between the club and athlete more often than not.
I get the distinct feeling that the Sabres and Kaleta came to an impasses during contract negotiations (most likely spurred by the Wild’s Cal Clutterbuck and his insane contract that is paying him $1M, $1.5M, and $1.7M over the next three years). The Sabres, knowing what a public relations nightmare it would be to let the beloved home-town pest go, choose to go the arbitration route ensuring it would put Kaleta under contract for one or two years. The term and salary handed down by the arbitrator aren’t determined yet, but unlike player-elected arbitration I don’t think Kaleta can walk away from this deal (someone prove me wrong if you’d like, if I am wrong).
I don’t like that Darcy Regier used a once-in-a-player’s-career tactic because he couldn’t get Kaleta to agree to the terms of any contract he’d been offering. On the flip side, and I don’t know the whole story but hear me out, I don’t like that Kaleta may be using other ludicrous contracts to over-value himself to the point of impossibility. Yes, he’s statistically the best pest in the game and yes, his offensive skills and hockey sense are evolving every season, but there is no way in hell Patrick Kaleta should be saying, “Yea, Clutterbuck is getting $1.5M and $1.7M coming up and I deserve that, too.” (Clutterbuck doesn’t either, so what in the world was Chuck Fletcher thinking?)
Is this creating bad blood between the Sabres? Does Patrick Kaleta have the kind of ego that would have him pull a petty Michael Peca-esque stunt and sit out over a few hundred thousand? Is Darcy Regier criminally low-balling an indispensible part of the team? A contract could be worked out in the meantime before the arbitration hearing, but I don’t see it happening. I just don’t like this situation one bit.
UPDATE: So the speculation is that Darcy Regier took Kaleta to club-elected arbitration because another GM did or did not say he was going to drop an offer sheet on Kaleta. As I said in my comments, I’d be perfectly cool with arbitration if it kept offer sheets off the table. Since that’s what is generally assumed now, I’m waiting for Darcy to tell me to shut up in a presser hah.