The National Hockey League has made a not insignificant change to the rules surrounding restricted free agents in this offseason and in many ways I feel it puts additional pressure on NHL teams to get a deal done.
Restricted free agents traditionally have very little negotiating power and while that is still mostly true a new rule surrounding arbitration filings has shifted a little power to the player side, at least in my opinion. The rule stipulates teams that now reach their arbitration hearing, that is to say teams that have failed to negotiate a deal on time, will now have to allow the arbitrator to make his ruling before moving forward.
The arbitration process is a grueling one for player and team and has often been known to fracture relationships, so as often as possible teams and players both try to avoid it. In the past even if the two sides had reached the hearing they could still come to terms on a deal during the arbitration process, but that is now no longer the case. This effectively forces teams into that potentially ugly process with their player, a player they are then forced to argue against in an effort to get the best possible deal.
For this reason there has been a lot more focus on getting deals done before these deadlines, and one need look no further than this week in the NHL to see proof of that. We had a single hearing set for Sunday, but Nicholas Paul of the Ottawa Senators signed his deal before ever reaching his hearing. The same is true of the only hearing schedule for Monday, with Gustav Forsling already agreeing to a deal with the Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes had another hearing scheduled for Tuesday with Warren Foegele, but they announced his new deal just a few hours ago and Victor Olofsson who was also scheduled for a hearing on the same day signed a deal with the Sabres.
There are however 4 players who have not yet received a new contract and that means their respective teams will be on the clock this week.
New York Rangers forward Ryan Strome has a hearing set for Thursday and his teammate Brendan Lemieux is also set to go before the arbitrator on the very next day. Ryan Pulock of the New York Islanders has a hearing scheduled for Friday and last but not least we will have a hearing for Senators defenseman Christian Jaros on Saturday.