Oh, to have been a fly on the wall while Braden Holtby and the Capitals gave their briefs to an NHL arbitrator in Toronto earlier today.
What kind of dirt did the Caps have to dig up to convince an arbitrator their 25-year-old goaltender is worth their proposed $5.1 million, which would make him the 17th highest-paid goalie in the NHL?
And what kind of flowery language did Holtby’s agent come up with to justify his $8 million asking price, which would make him the second highest-paid goalie in the NHL next season, behind only Henrik Lundqvist ($8.5 million)?
No matter what an arbitrator rules in the case of Holtby – and he has 48 hours to render a decision – there’s a good chance the fiery goalie will come out feeling he has something to prove next season, especially with restricted free agency looming for him again next summer.
Same goes for Marcus Johansson, who is scheduled for his arbitration hearing on July 29.
By their very nature, arbitration cases can be contentious, but some of the most famous in NHL history have been downright entertaining.
Like the one in 2002 when the Vancouver Canucks went to war with former Capitals captain Brendan Morrison. At one point during their briefing the Canucks likened Morrison to a mouse who was carried across a river by two elephants, linemates Todd Bertuzzi and Markus Naslund.
Afterward, then-Canucks general manager Brian Burke barked, “After inviting us into the alley, you can't complain if you get kicked in the groin.”
Morrison may have come out of that arbitration with his ego bruised but his pockets were full, tripling his $770,000 salary with a two-year, $4.6 million deal.
In 1997, when he was general manager of the New York Islanders, Mike Milbury reportedly drove goaltender Tommy Salo to tears by telling his agent he was one of the poorest conditioned athletes he’d ever seen. Salo had to leave the room but increased his salary from $300,000 to $750,000.
In 2003, the Phoenix Coyotes called Mike Johnson the “worst forward in the NHL” in their briefing, but somehow found a way to settle on a one-year, $2.3 million contract minutes before the hearing started. Johnson still has a copy of the Coyotes’ briefing.
Only a handful of Capitals have gone to arbitration, with bruising defenseman Brendan Witt one of the most notable cases in 2004.
Witt, who was coming off a 12-point, minus-22 season, was given a one-year award of $2.2 million, a raise from his $1.75 million salary.
“The award was about where we thought it would come in," then-Capitals general manager George McPhee told the Washington Post at the time. "He had a strong case. . . . Brendan and I had a good talk after it was over. There's a mutual respect there.”
Witt sounded like it was something he did not want to endure again.
“Arbitration is not the best thing to go through," he said at the time. “But it's behind us."
The same sentiment will probably come from Holtby when an award is announced in the coming days. But don't feel too bad for him. He'll probably more than triple last year's salary of $2 million.