Hey, remember yesterday when I said this?
I hope you'll forgive me for getting a little nervous right now, given how long Dubinsky's contract negotiations lasted two years ago. I see no indication that Dubinsky's agent then, Kurt Overhardt, is not still his agent now.
Well, today, Larry Brooks tweeted this [sic]:
Unless theres dramatic shift, Dubinsky headed to arb on Thur, sides not close enough yet on longterm. Talks continue with Callahan, arb 7/28
Yep. Fantastic. Hey Kurt, let's try to have the guy at training camp on time this time around, eh?
OK, fine, I didn't want to have to fucking do this, but since it's clearly going to come up, let's talk about what arbitration actually means. Siiiiiiiiiiigh.
Dubinsky elected salary arbitration against the Rangers. That means he feels the qualifying offer extended to him as a restricted free agent ($2 million at a year - this figure is set by the CBA based on his 2010-11 salary and was not determined by the Rangers in any way) is insufficient given his level of play. Should the Rangers and Dubinsky reach a different agreement and sign a new contract before the arbitration (as they did with Sauer and Boyle), it will stand and the arbitration will not occur.
When they don't by Thursday, Dubi and the Rangers will have an arbitration hearing. A third party (one of 8 Salary Arbitrators agreed upon by the NHL and NHLPA for this off-season) will hear Dubi's salary recommendation, the Rangers' salary recommendation, and arguments about Dubi's overall value from both parties (what kind of evidence is or is not valid in these arguments is subject to a series of rules I don't care to understand right now). Because it was Dubinsky who filed for arbitration, the Rangers also get to elect whether it will be a one-year or two-year arbitration. I used the Magic of the Internet to get Newsday's Steve Zipay's opinion, and he expects they will go for two.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the Arbitrator will elect a salary he or she feels is appropriate for Dubinsky. The salary will take all evidence, as well as both parties' starting offers, into consideration, but there is no restriction that the appointed salary must be between the two parties' starting offers: it could be more than Dubi asked for or less than the Rangers offered. The only rule is that it cannot be less than 85% of Dubi's salary last year (his was $2 million, so the salary is guaranteed to be at least $1.7 million). The Arbitrator may also override the Rangers' length request (one-year or two-year), but that is apparently unlikely to happen.
If the Rangers approve of the salary decision, then Dubi must also accept it. They will then sign a contract for the length determined (1 or 2 years), at that salary each year.
The Rangers do have the option, however, to reject the arbitration offer, subject to some restrictions. Generally, they must decide within 48 hours of the conclusion of the hearing. However, they are also restricted, as a team, by the total number of arbitration rejections they are allowed to make. Because they still have two players on their way to arbitration, the Rangers are permitted to reject only one arbitration offer. So, the Rangers are given until 48 hours after Callahan's hearing to determine whether or not to reject Dubinsky's result. That way they can choose where to spend their one rejection (the other offer would then have to be accepted). If the Rangers and Callahan come to terms before then, the Rangers of course lose the extra window of decision-making time.
Should the Rangers go ahead and reject the arbitration offer, if it is a one-year arbitration, Dubinsky immediately becomes an unrestricted free agent. If it is a two-year arbitration, they and Dubi are committed to a one-year deal at the arbitration offer, after which Dubi will be an unrestricted free agent.
I believe that at any point, the two sides can just reach an agreement independent of what the arbiter decides. I'm not sure exactly how it works, but if they decide on a contract after the hearing, but before the deadline for rejection (which, again, is extended due to Callahan's hearing next week), the Rangers could theoretically reject the offer, which would make Dubinsky an unrestricted free agent, freeing him up to turn around and sign the new deal.
However, that would spend the Rangers' one rejection for the off-season, thus committing them to whatever the Arbitrator decides in the Callahan hearing, should that come to pass. So it stands to reason they wouldn't want to do that until Callahan is resolved. Still, if I'm not mistaken, the two sides are only bound to the Arbitrator's decision if they can't come to some other terms, regardless of the timeline (until they sign the contract, that is). I think.
At the end of the day, the conclusion is some combination of "Dubinsky and Overhardt are once again playing hardball" and "Sather is once again undervaluing key components," though I'm inclined to lean a little more toward the former. Two years ago, those heels being dug in resulted in Dubi missing most of training camp, a stunted start to his season, and frustration on both sides (which I wouldn't be entirely surprised to learn is contributing to this year's issues). It's probably also a part of the reason a lot of Ranger fans don't consider him to be in the running for the big C on the sweater (the lower-drama Callahan is widely considered the front-runner). And all that was when Dubinsky didn't actually have any bargaining power (he was not eligible for arbitration: if he didn't accept a deal with the Rangers, he wasn't playing in the NHL at all).
I wonder what will come of it this time around.