© St. Petersburg Times, published August 18, 2002
NHL players and teams appear more determined to strike deals and avoid the divisiveness that is a part of salary arbitration.
Of the 40 players who filed this year, 31 reached a contract agreement before a scheduled hearing. Only nine cases were heard by an arbitrator.
In the past four years, 54 of 141 players who filed had salaries determined by an arbitrator (38 percent to 23 this year).
Dallas' Jason Arnott and Ottawa's Radek Bonk received the biggest awards. Arnott, acquired by the Stars from New Jersey last season, received a two-year deal worth $7.5-million. Bonk got $6.7-million for two years with the Senators.
Though he slumped to 45 points last season, Arnott received a raise of about $1-million per year. Bonk, who had a career-high 70 points, will get almost double his last season salary of $1.8-million.
The largest raise awarded by an arbitrator went to Vancouver center Brendan Morrison, who had 67 points. After making $775,000 last season, he will receive $2.15-million and $2.45-million in a two-year deal. Rangers defenseman Tom Poti's salary jumped from $925,000 to $1.8-million.
FREE AGENT DAFOE WAITING: After wing Theo Fleury signed with Chicago, goalie Byron Dafoe is the odd-man-out when it comes to big-name unrestricted free agents. With training camps less than four weeks away, Dafoe has not received a firm contract offer.
"There are some guys who'd be losing their minds right now," agent Bryant McBride said. Dafoe helped lead Boston to the best record in the East last season, but the Bruins were eliminated by Montreal in the first round of the playoffs.
It appeared Dafoe might go to Toronto or Detroit. The Red Wings, however, signed Curtis Joseph, and the Maple Leafs grabbed Ed Belfour. No one appears willing to spend big money for a goalie, and the Bruins traded for Steve Shields to take Dafoe's place.