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Golden Knights, William Karlsson face arbitration case

On the excitement scale, salary arbitration cases tend to fall somewhere between watching water boil and an Ed Sheeran album.

William Karlsson’s is the exception to the rule.

Of all the arbitration cases in the NHL this summer, none is more compelling than the one involving Karlsson and the Golden Knights.

The two sides remain at a standstill on a new contract for the restricted free agent who scored 43 goals last season and are scheduled for a hearing Saturday morning in Toronto.

“It would just be a fascinating hearing to listen to,” analyst Mike Johnson said on NHL Network this week. “The argument is, who are you? Is it the guy who played in Columbus in ’16-’17 with 25 points, or are you the guy who played in Vegas? And I don’t think either party really knows.

“And the answer, like everything, probably lies in the middle. He’s probably not a 40-goal, 80-point guy in the NHL year after year after year. He’s certainly much better than six or seven goals and 25 points. So, how does an arbitrator decide where to meet? … It’s hard to find a normal number that fits.”

Karlsson is seeking $6.5 million annually in arbitration, while the Knights offered $3.5 million annually, figures that were confirmed by the Review-Journal on Thursday.

Karlsson’s agent, Michael Deutsch, and the Knights can continue to negotiate a new contract before the hearing, which begins at 6 a.m. Pacific time and is expected to last several hours.

Ottawa’s Mark Stone avoided his scheduled hearing Friday by agreeing to a one-year, $7.35 million contract with the Senators. Stone asked for $9 million annually, which would have been a record for arbitration.

Karlsson’s sensible asking price allows him to work out a similar deal with the Knights if they choose.

Arbitrators frequently meet in the middle on salary requests, and a $5 million annual salary would put Karlsson level with linemates Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith.

The 25-year-old center made $1 million last season when he led the Western Conference champions in scoring with 78 points and received the Lady Byng Trophy as the league’s most gentlemanly player.

The Knights currently have more than $13.1 million in salary cap space, according to CapFriendly.com.

Deutsch did not respond to voicemail messages Friday seeking comment.

Karlsson posted six goals and 25 points with Columbus in 2016-17, and his 37-goal jump after being selected by the Knights in the expansion draft is tied for the third-highest year-to-year goal increase in NHL history.

But signing Karlsson to a long-term deal on the heels of a career year comes with risks for the Knights. It also could turn out to be a bargain should Karlsson remain a consistent point producer and perennial Selke Award candidate as the top defensive forward.

On the other hand, Karlsson could use his little bit of leverage and turn down the Knights’ overtures in hopes of cashing in as an unrestricted free agent in 2020.

The last player to go to arbitration after a breakout season similar to Karlsson’s was Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman with a plus-24 goal increase from the previous year.

SHORT DESCRIPTION (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Hoffman was awarded a $2 million salary after asking for $3.4 million, and that 2015 ruling, which leaned in favor of the team, could serve as a precedent in Karlsson’s case.

During the hearing, the player and team present evidence including his performance, injuries, overall contribution to the team’s success, “special qualities of leadership or public appeal” and the salary of any comparable player.

The arbitrator then has 48 hours to render a decision, and the team decides on a one- or two-year contract.

No matter what, though, Karlsson will be with the Knights for the upcoming season.

More Golden Knights: Follow all of our Golden Knights coverage online at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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