Connect with us


With Arbitration Looming, What is O’Connor Worth?



Pittsburgh Penguins, Drew O'Connor

That Drew O’Connor has developed into a serviceable bottom-six forward for the Pittsburgh Penguins — and that he has the potential to become something more — is not in dispute.

Kyle Dubas, the Penguins’ president of hockey operations and interim GM, made his feelings about that clear when he extended a qualifying offer to O’Connor earlier this summer rather than allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent.

The Penguins declined to do that with forward Ryan Poehling, apparently because Dubas was concerned about what Poehling might be awarded in salary arbitration.

Poehling subsequently signed a one-year, $1.4 million contract with Philadelphia.

While the Penguins and O’Connor seem to share a belief that he has a future with this team, there hasn’t been an agreement on precisely what tangible value should be attached to O’Connor’s contributions.

And if the parties can’t find common ground on that before an arbitration hearing scheduled for Friday, the issue will be settled by a third party, who will listen to presentations from both sides before making a ruling.

As noted in this space recently, things said in arbitration hearings can rub emotions raw, because management is trying to make a case to pay the player as little as possible. (While the player, of course, is trying to maximize his earnings.)

While neither the team nor O’Connor’s camp has made any public comments about the state of any negotiations they have had, chances are that the gap between them isn’t nearly as large as the one that will exist if the situation progresses to the point where they have to submit salary proposals to the arbitrator.

Based on such submissions so far this summer, it won’t be a surprise if O’Connor requests roughly double what the team proposes to pay him. A few examples:

Anaheim: $4.5 million. Troy Terry: $8 million.

Boston: $1.4 million. Trent Frederic: $2.9 million.

Boston: $2 million. Jeremy Swayman, $4.8 million.

Toronto: $2.4 million. Ilya Samsonov: $4.9 million.

The arbitrator does not have to choose between the proposals; generally, the salary awarded falls between the submissions from the player and team.

In Samsonov’s case, the hearing resulted in him getting a one-year deal worth $3.55 million.

O’Connor, 25, had a salary-cap hit of $750,000 on the one-year contract under which he worked last season.

It seems reasonable to assume that he will get a bump in pay, but it is unclear how much he will seek or the Pittsburgh Penguins will offer if the process gets to that point. And, of course, there’s no way of knowing what an arbitrator might rule.

That uncertainty probably is the primary reason that most years, the majority of players who file for arbitration reach a settlement before the hearing takes place, since negotiations are allowed to continue right up to the start of the session.

That trend seems to be holding true in 2023.

Players who requested arbitration but then got to a deal before their hearing took place include Tampa Bay forward Tanner Jeannot, Colorado center Ross Colton, Seattle defenseman Vince Dunn and Philadelphia forward Noah Cates.