Salary Arbitration Workshop: why is Trevor Lewis eligible?

Twenty-one NHL free agents file for salary arbitration

Twenty-one NHL free agents have elected to take their teams to arbitration in an attempt to solve contract disputes, including […] Trevor Lewis, Alec Martinez, Jake Muzzin, Jordan Nolan […]

You may have noticed, as I immediately did, that Trevor Lewis is apparently eligible for arbitration, despite my assertion that he is, in fact, not. I’m going to say right off the bat — given the fact that Lewis is on the list published by the league — that I’m sure I’m wrong and the league is right.

I just need someone to explain it to me.

The CBA says:

12.1 Eligibility for Player or Club Election of Salary Arbitration

a)     A Player is eligible for salary arbitration if the Player meets the qualifications set forth in the following chart and in Section 12.1(b) below:

First SPC Signing Age Minimum Experience Req.
18-20 4 years professional experience
21 3 years professional experience
22-23 2 years professional experience
24 and older 1 year professional experience

A Player aged 18 or 19 earns a year of professional experience by playing ten (10) or more NHL Games in a given season. A Player aged 20 or older (or who turns 20 between September 16 and December 31 of the calendar year in which he signs his first SPC) earns a year of professional experience by playing ten (10) or more Professional Games under an SPC in a given season.

My interpretation of the above definition was that if you sign at 18 or 19, seasons of pro experience accrue according to how many NHL games you play in a given season, whereas, if you sign at 20 or older, seasons accrue according to how many NHL, AHL or other pro games you play in a given season.

My reading is supported (conclusively, I would think) by this, also from Article 12:

As used in this Article, “age,” including “First SPC Signing Age,” means a Player’s age on September 15 of the calendar year in which he first signs an SPC regardless of his actual age on the date he signs such SPC.

In other words, when they are talking about a player’s age, they are talking about his age (as defined in bold above) back when he signed, not his age at the time of the season in question. That’s what the above quote says. “Age means age…in which he first signs an SPC.” So, if you wanted to go by the letter of the CBA, not what the league obviously thinks it kinda sorta meant to say, then Trevor Lewis is not eligible for arbitration. Because Trevor Lewis signed his first ELC at 19. Therefore (see chart), he needs four years of professional experience in order to be eligible for arbitration. And he played in 10 or more NHL games in only the last three seasons (2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13).

Again, he signed at 19. So his “age” (which equals “age when signed” as defined above) in every subsequent season is 19 and stays 19. So only NHL games count.

That’s what it says. It’s not my fault that’s what it says. But it’s what it says.

But, Goddammit, his name is on the list. So clearly the league and the club and the agent and the player all must think his AHL seasons (2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10) count, also — bringing his years of professional experience to six, and making him eligible for arbitration.

The CBA, not surprisingly, is grammatically ambiguous, due mostly to the undefined phrase “in a given season,” compounded by the juxtaposition of the “age at signing” distinction with reference to the player’s age in each of his potentially-relevant NHL or “professional” seasons. It’s very clear (but weird) in its definition of “age” in Article 12. I guess everyone is just ignoring the weirdness and going with “what they meant was…”

Based on the evidence of Lewis’s apparent eligibility, this is my new translation of what the CBA means to say:

For the purpose of calculating years of professional experience, a player is considered to be “aged 20″ for the entire season x if his 20th birthday falls within the calendar year in which season x begins. (This distinction is necessary because seasons begin in one calendar year and end in another.) In other words, a player who turns 20 on 12/31/13 is “aged 20″ for the entire 2013-14 season, even though he is not yet 20 when the season starts. However, a player who is one day younger — and turns 20 on 1/1/14 — is “aged 19″ for the entire 2013-14 season, despite the fact that he is 20 for most of the season. 

For any season in which a player is defined as not yet “aged 20,” that player earns one season of professional experience by playing in 10 or more NHL games in that single season.

For any season in which a player is defined as “aged 20″ or older, that player earns one season of professional experience by playing in 10 or more games (total for all leagues in that season) in the NHL, AHL, or other professional leagues, in that single season.

I will now update my original post to include this clarification.


  7 comments for “Salary Arbitration Workshop: why is Trevor Lewis eligible?

  1. shiny
    July 11, 2013 at 7:59 AM

    The CBA is also very unclear when it says “[…] earns a year of professional experience by playing ten (10) or more Professional Games” because playing in the AHL is considered turning “pro” and thus negates college students for NCAA eligibility. So therefore, by not distinguishing between AHL and NHL, you could argue that yes, Trevor Lewis IS eligible for arbitration.

    Of course the “in a given season” also seems to indicate that it doesn’t have to be 10 games in a SINGLE season; i.e.: over the course of his career every 10 games he plays counts towards his accrual. That’s my interpretation anyway. It’s probably wrong, though.

    • scsf
      July 12, 2013 at 9:20 AM

      Quisp, this is weird. I agree with you…for as long as Lewis has played in the organization, he still doesn’t seem to qualify. I don’t see how “given season” can be interpreted this way; I don’t like that language but I don’t find it ambiguous. Very, very strange, but I love it when you bring our attention to this, because damn, no way I’d be looking over the list of players for these details.

      But…and this doesn’t answer a darned thing, Lewis actually filed for arbitration in 2011, and from what I’ve seen, this portion of the CBA remains essentially unchanged, so the mystery began several years ago. Might have to go over some old LAKI articles to see if it was explained. Ugh. Probably not.

      @ shiny

      Your first point can be countered fairly easily. It’s a little awkward (this is the CBA, after all) because In the definition section of the CBA, the encompassing definition of “professional games” includes NHL, minor league games, plus Euro games, including those not covered under the player’s SPC. But within the various articles of the CBA, narrower interpretations and definitions are carved out, and those will ALWAYS be the controlling definitions in those sections. For RFA & arb purposes, “professional EXPERIENCE” (not “games”) is functionally defined, as Quisp discussed, based on the age at which the ELC is signed. So it can EITHER be NHL games OR minor league + NHL games, depending on said player’s age. Just because it can be one or the other doesn’t mean it’s ambiguous in any way, as only one of those definitional forks can apply to any particular player at any one time (unless you’re Trevor Lewis?).

  2. Token
    July 12, 2013 at 9:03 AM

    Unless they used the Julian calendar on the birth certificate and Lewis was actually born on Dec 27th, there is some funny business going on here. The CBA is pretty clear on age determination for a particular season.

  3. scsf
    July 12, 2013 at 10:42 AM

    Blah. I’ve spent over 30 minutes of my last hour on this so I’m checking out now.

    The one thing that caught my eye was the “entry level slide” however I don’t believe that it helps explain this. As Lewis didn’t get in his 10 games the first year, the starting ot the ELC tolled until in 2007, at which point he was 20 for CBA-purposes. But I don’t see anything that adjusts a player’s “effective SPC signing age” to the year in which the ELC actually takes effect, so I don’t think it’s relevant, unless hidden in the “all terms of the SPC….shall be extended in all circumstances” language, there’s an “SPC age slide.” Yes, I’m reaching here.

    9.1 (d) (i) In the event that an 18 year old or 19 year old Player signs an SPC with a Club but does not play at least ten (10) NHL Games in the first season under that SPC, the term of his SPC and his number of years in the Entry Level System shall be extended for a period of one (1) year, except that this automatic extension will not apply to a Player who is 19 according to Section 9.2 by virtue of turning 20 between September 16 and December 31 in the year in which he first signs an SPC. Unless a Player and Club expressly agree to the contrary, in the event a Player’s SPC is extended an additional year in accordance with this subsection, all terms of the SPC, with the exception of Signing Bonuses, but including Paragraph 1 Salary, games played bonuses and Exhibit 5 bonuses, shall be extended; provided, however, that the Player’s Paragraph 1 Salary shall be extended in all circumstances.

    • July 12, 2013 at 12:49 PM

      You may well be onto something here. I will look into this. Thanks.

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