It’s been a rough 12 months for Mason Raymond. As you might recall, on June 13 of last year, Raymond entered Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final and came out not with a Cup ring, but rather, with a broken back. Then, after successfully working his way back to health, his return was put off because Alain Vigneault was riding a hot team, then further put off when the Canucks made a paperwork error. Then, once he finally did get back into the lineup, he struggled to produce and spent the next 4 months as the whipping boy of Canuck fans everywhere.
And now, just to really make these last 12 months a year to remember, on the one-year anniversary of his vertebral fracture, the Canucks have elected to take Raymond to arbitration, where they will argue he’s not worth his qualifying offer.
Worst. Year. Ever.
Darren Dreger broke the news via Twitter:
Canucks file “cutdown” arbitration on Mason Raymond. Q.O is $2.6 million. Salary can’t drop more than to $2.21 million if Van wins arb case.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) June 13, 2012
Now, there’s some confusion as to what, exactly, “cutdown” arbitration is, but don’t be scared by the new adjective, especially since it’s pretty well superfluous (like saying “Sahara desert” when “Sahara” means “desert”). Raymond is really just being taken to standard club-elected arbitration, although there is a minor departure from the scenario we usually see.
In most cases, arbitration comes after the team has submitted a qualifying offer to retain a restricted free agent, guaranteeing a certain base salary. (In Raymond’s case, this qualifying offer would have been the same as his $2.6 million cap hit from last year.) Then, if the player and the club can’t agree to the terms of a new contract, either party can take the case to an arbitrator.
However, in rarer instances, if a team wants to retain a restricted free agent but they want pay him less than he made the year prior, they can take him to arbitration in lieu of his qualifying offer, rather than after they submit it.
This makes sense for the Canucks and Raymond. Undoubtedly, the winger failed to live up to the expectations of the $5.1 million they gave him over the past two years, and the Canucks are reasonable to be opposed to paying him the same amount again. But they still like him and want him on the team, especially since keeping Raymond was a stipulation of Alain Vigneault’s contract. (I’m kidding…. I think.)
Raymond’s defensive game remains strong, and his offensive production was more than likely stalled by a few things, namely the loss of his spot on the first-unit powerplay, and also that whole “six weeks in a back brace” thing. Keeping Raymond in the fold is wisdom, especially since he’s versatile, he knows the system, he’s bound to improve on his 10-goal, 10-assist campaign, and he’ll likely come cheaper than an open-market replacement.
So how low can the arbitrator go? Not that low. The arbitrator can only grant a paycut of up to 15%, so at minimum, Raymond’s cap hit will be $2.2 million next season. Again, that’s at minimum. The arbitrator could award Raymond the same amount or more, and here’s the rub if he does: the Canucks are on the hook for it. Clubs can’t walk away from club-elected arbitrations. (You hold out your tray, and you’d better eat what the lunchlady gives ya.)
The Canucks can still trade Raymond, however, so this isn’t a guarantee that he’ll be back. But it’s certainly more likely now than it seemed late last season, when some were beginning to speculate that the club wouldn’t take any steps towards retaining Raymond at all.Tags: arbitration, broken backiversary, gilman is clever, Raymond