The Buffalo Sabres might be in for what will be a very difficult arbitration if the initial ask from each side is any indication of where things stand right now.
According to a breaking news report from National Hockey League insider Elliotte Friedman, the Sabres and goaltender Linus Ullmark are millions of dollars apart when it comes to their salary expectations ahead of arbitration. Friedman reports that the Sabres have come in with an initial ask of $1.8 million while the 27 year old Swedish netminder has come in with a much higher number, his ask is a whopping $4.1 million.
That is a massive divide between the two sides that will need to be bridged by an arbitrator and it is also an indication that Ullmark, a former 6th round pick (163rd overall) of the Buffalo Sabres at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, is expecting to get paid for the hard work he has put in over the last two seasons. Ullmark has appeared in over 30 games in his two most recent campaigns with the Buffalo Sabres, two years ago he played in 37 games recording a 3.11 goals against average and a .905 save percentage and most recently he recorded a 2.49 goals against average and a .915 save percentage over 34 appearances this season.
It is important to keep in mind here that it is the responsibility of the team to make an offer that best suits the interest of the team, while the player is represented by an agent who will be looking at the richest comparable contracts in order to present the highest possible offer. If I had to guess Joakim Persson, Ullmark's agent, is probably looking at the contract handed down to Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom as one of the benchmarks to arrive at his $4.1 million number.
The two goalies had similar seasons, with Markstrom posting slightly better numbers in all categories with a 2.75 goals against average and .918 save percentage over 43 games, but that is effectively where the similarities end. Markstrom has proven himself over 270 career games in the NHL while Ullmark has played just over a third as many games with 97 career NHL games under his belt.
It will be very interesting to see what comes out of this arbitration hearing both in terms of the contract that will be awarded as well as how it will impact the relationship between team and goalie moving forward.