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Arbitration for all!

The popular wisdom is that the NHL's salary arbitration process yields some surprising awards for various players. Pedestrian forwards like Mike York got $2.85 million, and young players still on the rise like Scott Gomez and Daniel Briere got $5 million apiece, figures that were roundly presumed to throw their team's salary structure into chaos. Yet these awards were accepted by their clubs, and the players are back in the fold (at least for now).

When you look at the results, it appears that league GM's can largely live with the decisions. Only Boston's David Tanabe and Buffalo's JP Dumont were allowed to walk away as unrestricted free agents. The vast majority of these cases were settled between player and team before they ever went before the arbitrator, and for those who did end up getting a ruling, almost all of those players were retained by their team. There was really only one significant sign-and-trade (Kyle Calder being sent to Philadelphia for Michael Handjzus) completed, with one more (Vitaly Vishnevski) waiting in the wings.

You'd have to score this Arbitration Season as a clear victory for the players. Those who stuck it out and went all the way were handsomely rewarded, and the teams have agreed to their new terms. How will this affect next year's class of arbitration-eligible players? Will GM's work on negotiating more contracts during the season, so as to avoid fighting more losing battles next summer? Only time will tell... 

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