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Why arbitration with Filip Hronek should be avoided ft. Daniel Wagner: Canucks Conversation

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Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Clarke Corsan
1 month ago
On Wednesday’s edition of Canucks Conversation, David Quadrelli and Harman Dayal were joined by journalist Daniel Wagner to discuss Filip Hronek’s contract negotiation status.
Hronek is Vancouver’s most crucial free agent heading into the 2024 offseason. The Canucks seem determined to re-sign him, given his essential role as a right-shot defenceman capable of playing over 23 minutes per game and his proven chemistry with Quinn Hughes, despite his drop-off in play during the second half of the season.
Securing a top-pairing right-shot defenceman without developing them in-house is a significant challenge for any NHL team. At just 26, Hronek seems like a perfect candidate for a long-term contract.
However, negotiations aren’t straightforward. During the season, the Canucks offered Hronek a contract reportedly worth $6.5-6.75 million annually over eight years. Despite this, Hronek’s camp is asking for $8 million per year, creating a significant gap in negotiations. Rick Dhaliwal from ChekTV reported that Hronek’s demands are firm.
This presents a dilemma: while the Canucks want to re-sign Hronek, an $8 million cap hit is substantial. However, Hronek has arbitration rights, allowing his agent to build a strong case for a high salary. Arbitration allows a neutral third party to determine Hronek’s salary if negotiations fail. This process can only award contracts for one or two years, potentially leading Hronek to unrestricted free agency soon. Given Hronek’s impressive statistics, his arbitration case is strong. Last season, he averaged 23:26 in ice time, placing him among the top NHL defencemen. His 48 points ranked 21st among defencemen, and his +33 plus/minus was seventh.
“One of the interesting things with arbitration is what you’re allowed to use,” said Daniel. “You’re only allowed to use the statistics that the NHL provides on their website; you can’t use third-party statistics. Anything you’d use to prove that Filip Hronek is held up by Quinn Hughes, you can’t use that as all that proof is coming from third-party statistics. You’re allowed to use things like games played, points, time on ice, situational time on ice such as special teams. The NHL provides a version of corsi, and that’s available. All of those statistics look really, really good for Hronek. Anything you’d use to undercut him can’t be used because it’s not available from the NHL.”
As a restricted free agent (RFA), Hronek’s rights are owned by the Canucks, who must extend a qualifying offer to retain these rights. Based on his previous $4.4 million cap hit, the qualifying offer will be $5.28 million, which Hronek is expected to reject. He can negotiate further, and he has two primary options: an offer sheet from another team or arbitration. Offer sheets are rare and unlikely in Hronek’s case, as they would involve significant compensation to the Canucks. Thus, arbitration is the more realistic path.
“When you look at comparable players based on what you can use in arbitration, you’re looking at guys like Mikhail Sergachev and Jacob Trouba, players that lead to a cap-hit of $9 million,” Daniel noted. “When that’s the comparable, you can understand why the Canucks are concerned. The Canucks can reply with comparables like Neal Pionk and Ryan Pulock, who are much lower, towards $6 million, which is a huge gap. Even if the arbitrator comes in between those, you’re still looking at $7.9-8 million as a cap hit for Hronek.”
“Hronek is still a really good defenceman,” continued Daniel. “People have been down on him because of his performance in the second half of the season. There’ve been rumors about him being injured and that affecting his play. There are multiple deadlines here; they could potentially trade him at the draft, but teams are sometimes hesitant to trade away picks at the draft because they’ve been building towards it. Then you’ve got the arbitration deadline, where Hronek can file for arbitration on July 5th, followed by his actual arbitration hearing. Three separate deadlines where the Canucks can continue negotiating; if it doesn’t work out, they can look at trading him, and that doesn’t have to happen at the draft. For me, the offer has to be fantastic because the Canucks don’t have to trade him at all. If the offer is right, maybe you move Hronek, but I don’t think he’s easy to replace. Especially not in free agency, where you’re going to be spending a lot of money on a player who potentially won’t have the same impact on Quinn Hughes. I think it’s safer to go long-term with Hronek.”
You can watch the full replay of today’s show below:

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