Predators sign contested players to deals on eve of grievance

Thursday, July 7, 2011 at 5:05pm

David Poile says he has no idea how long Friday’s hearing in regard to a grievance filed by the NHL Players Association will last.

It became obvious Thursday, though, that it won’t take as long as originally expected.

Three of the prominent players involved in the matter — Matt Halischuk, Nick Spaling and Cal O’Reilly — were among four who signed contracts with the Nashville Predators and, therefore, were removed from the proceedings.

Only the status of left wing Sergei Kostitsyn and minor league forward Linus Klasen remain in dispute, but Klasen already has a deal in place to play in Sweden in 2011-12, so the outcome in regard to him is irrelevant. The hearing is set to take place Friday in New York before independent arbitrator George Nicolau.

“We’re told that it’s a two-part situation,” Poile, the Predators general manager, said. “I don’t know how long it is supposed to take.

“We’ve been told that a ruling won’t come [Friday]. I don’t know when that will happen either.”

Halischuk, Spaling and O’Reilly all got NHL-only deals. Halischuk got two years for $1.425 million ($600,000 and $825,000, respectively), Spaling got two years for $2.1 million ($1 million and $1.1 million) and O’Reilly got one year at $1.05 million.

Also, Chris Mueller signed a two-year, two-way pact, which will pay him an NHL salary of $550,000.

“We had been talking to their agents since the end of the season, and we continued to talk to them after the grievance was filed,” Poile said. “It really didn’t affect anything we were doing.”

Talks have taken place as well with Kostitsyn, who filed for arbitration earlier this week. The 24-year-old forward led the team with 23 goals and tied for the lead with 50 points (both career-highs) last season. He had no goals and five assists in the postseason.

“We just haven’t found a number that works with him yet. That’s why we have the arbitration filing,” Poile said.

If Nicolau rules against the Predators in the grievance hearing, Kostitsyn could be declared an unrestricted free agent. If the ruling is in the Predators’ favor, talks will continue with Kostitsyn in an attempt to avoid arbitration over his value.

The NHLPA filed the grievance over whether qualifying offers were made prior to a deadline mandated by the collective bargaining agreement between the league and its players. It also included forward Andreas Thuresson, who was traded to the New York Rangers last weekend.