We were thinking about how much money is saved by having an arbitration-eligible player versus an unrestricted free agent. The best way to measure this would be to look at players who went to arbitration, then became unrestricted free agents, and compare the arbitration award to the current salary. Unfortunately, we are not succeeding at finding lists for 2005 or 2006 arbitration awards, but we did find one on TSN for 2007.
So we whipped up this handy-dandy chart. The first two columns are pretty self-explanatory - that's what the player got paid per season in arbitration, the second is what he made the year after that - 4 of them were UFA, Hunter was not but signed a deal well into his UFA years. Column 3 is the % increase between the two. Column 4 is a bit trickier - we cannot just compare salaries across the board between years. We have to remember that the salary cap increased over this time - it was $50.1 million in 2007-08. Further compounding this issue is the fact that the salary cap cannot be mentioned in arbitration hearings. We decided to use the % increase between 2007-08 and 2008-09 plus half the % increase between 2006-07 and 2007-08, figuring there to be some lag between arbitration awards and salary cap increases.
As you can see, of these 5, their salaries increased by 55% on average when they became UFA eligible. We don't think this is a strong enough sample - we intend to search out all players who had their first UFA contract this year or last year to see what the average increase is there.
Coming Next: 2008-09 First Time UFA Salary Increases.