The Bear Cave

July 6, 2009 7:58 AM

Hunwick Joins 19 Other NHL Players in Filing for Arbitration

The 2009 NHL Free Agency Period began with a bang on Wednesday, as 51 players wasted no time in solidifying their teams for the upcoming season. Since then, things have slowed down drastically, with approximately 30 other players signing deals over the past four days. However, there was some news to report on Sunday, as 5:00 marked the deadline for those players who were interested in filing for arbitration.

Although chances are good that the majority of these will get decided before the hearings, the current list shows that 20 players have elected to file for arbitration. The NHL teams have until 5:00 on Monday to add to the list, as that is the deadline for club-elected arbitration. Schedules for the specific hearings will come out within the next few weeks, as the first possible date for a hearing is July 20th. The hearing season runs through August 4th, meaning players and teams will have between two and four weeks to come up with a deal on their own. A safe prediction would be to say that 10-15 deals will get done prior to the hearings, while 5-10 will need a judge to determine a ruling.

One note concerning arbitration is that players who elect to go that route become ineligible to sign offer sheets from other clubs. Although some fans may feel frustrated in a lack of ability to sign a contract, arbitration does show that the player is committed to getting a deal done with his current team.

On the local scene, one member of the Boston Bruins has filed for arbitration. That is Matt Hunwick, who is a restricted free agent after completing his first full season in the NHL. Hunwick has been a Bruin since the summer of 2004, when he was taken in the seventh round of the NHL Entry Draft. Despite the low selection, Hunwick battled hard for four years at the University of Michigan, before joining the Providence Bruins for the 2007-08 campaign. That year, the Warren, MI native recorded two goals and 23 assists in 55 regular season games, while also earning 13 games with the big club. Hunwick also began this past season in Rhode Island, but only needed two games (plus a one-game stint in February) at the AHL level before earning a permanent spot with Boston. In 53 regular season games with the Bruins, Hunwick had six goals, 21 assists, and 27 points. Unfortunately, the playoffs were short-lived for the 24-year old, who needed surgery to remove his spleen following game one against Montreal.

Hunwick and the Bruins are working extremely hard to get a deal done, and should be able to beat the clock in terms of their hearing date. Assuming Hunwick does re-sign, that will give Boston seven defensemen with NHL experience. Unless there is a trade or a signing in the future, that essentially completes the Bruins' blueline for the upcoming season. In all likelihood, Zdeno Chara and Aaron Ward would be the first pairing, Andrew Ference and Dennis Wideman would be second, Mark Stuart would be the fifth defenseman, leaving Hunwick and Johnny Boychuk to fight for the final spot in the lineup, assuming Boston dresses 12 forwards and six defensemen. The Bruins have carried seven blueliners on the roster in the past, so both should be in position to make the team out of training camp.

This is the second consecutive year that Boston has had a player file for arbitration. Last year, that player was defenseman Dennis Wideman, who came to terms on his current four-year contract prior to the hearing date.

Looking ahead toward the coming week, Phil Kessel, PJ Axelsson, and Stephane Yelle remain on the free agent market, while Shane Hnidy was signed to a one-year contract by the Minnesota Wild on Friday. Also, the Bruins will be holding their third annual development camp at Wilmington's Ristuccia Arena from Tuesday through Saturday.

Players who have Filed for Arbitration:
Colby Armstrong (ATL)
Kyle Brodziak (MIN)
Ryan Callahan (NYR)
Nigel Dawes (PHO)
Denis Grebeshkov (EDM)
Jiri Hudler (DET)
Matt Hunwick (BOS)
Aaron Johnson (CHI)
Milan Jurcina (WAS)
Clarke MacArthur (BUF)
Marc Methot (CBJ)
Tomas Plekanec (MON)
Tuomo Ruutu (CAR)
Matt Smaby (TB)
Nate Thompson (NYI)
Kyle Wellwood (VAN)
Daniel Winnik (PHO)
James Wisniewski (ANA)
Travis Zajac (NJ)
Nikolai Zherdev (NYR)

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