The negotiation process for restricted free agents in the National Hockey League can often be a rather difficult one given that players have relatively limited leverage in those scenarios, but things are never more difficult than when player and team are unable to come together on a deal and must instead rely on the services of a neutral arbitrator to do so.
Too many times in recent history has a relationship between player and team soured after the team has been forced to argue against the merits of their own player in order to get the best deal possible from the arbitrator. We have yet to see such a scenario this season and, thankfully for the Detroit Red Wings, general manager Steve Yzerman kept that trend going on Sunday when he reached a new deal with veteran forward Adam Erne.
The news first broke via National Hockey League insider Elliotte Friedman, who reports that the two sides were able to reach an agreement on a two year deal that will see Erne earn a total of $4.2 million over the full length of his contract. This means that for the next two seasons the Red Wings will have Erne at an average annual value and cap hit of $2.1 million, although Erne will be free to walk to unrestricted free agency following the conclusion of this new deal.
The former second round (33rd overall) draft selection of the Tampa Bay Lightning at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft is coming off a solid season for the Red Wings, easily the best of his NHL career thus far. Over 45 games with the Red Wings last season Erne recorded 11 goals, a career high, and added 9 assists for a combined total of 20 points. That 20 point total matches his previous best, although this time around he did it in 20 fewer games which obviously marks a drastic improvement. Erne also had 26 penalty minutes to his name during the season and finished the campaign with a plus minus rating of -1.
Prior to this deal being announced the Red Wings were sitting at a little over $20.5 million in available cap space, with the organization's only remaining restricted free agent unsigned being defenseman Filip Hronek. Yzerman has put the Red Wings in a great position in the NHL's flat cap era, and I suspect that he will seek to weaponize that cap space at some point in the not so distant future.