Mason Raymond and the Vancouver Canucks achieved contract harmony while avoiding a potentially acrimonious salary-arbitration hearing Monday.
The left winger agreed to a pay cut as he signed a one-year, US$2.275-million deal. The signing came after the Canucks made the rare move of filing for arbitration against Raymond in a bid to reduce his salary.
In most cases, arbitration results after players file the necessary papers in a bid for a raise. Hearings are known for leaving players bitter towards clubs after management makes extremely negative comments about performance and production.
Raymond became a restricted free agent July 1 before the Canucks filed for arbitration to secure exclusive negotiating rights and effectively keep him in the organization for at least one more season. He was due to have his arbitration case scheduled Monday afternoon for some time between July 20 to Aug. 5 in Toronto.
"We would not have undertaken the measure to invoke salary arbitration unless we felt that (Raymond) was a significant proponent of our team," said Canucks assistant general manager Laurence Gilman. "The fact is, we invoked salary arbitration in this instance to maximize the efficiency of our salary cap. To that end, we were able to get a contract for Mason that worked in our cap plan, but avoided the steps of having to go through the hearing.
"We're happy about the contract, and we're happy that the player didn't have to go through this process."
Raymond, 26, made $2.6 million last season, collecting 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in 55 regular-season games while recovering from a career-threatening back injury suffered in the 2010-11 Stanley Cup final against Boston. He added an assist in five post-season games.
The Canucks invoked a provision of the NHL's collective bargaining agreement last month to seek to cut Raymond's salary by as much as 15 per cent via arbitration. Gilman said the Canucks hope to see Raymond return to the form he displayed two seasons ago, when he scored 25 goals and added 28 assists in the 2009-10 season.
"We've been in contact with Mason over the summer," Gilman said. "We know he's working exceptionally hard. He's extremely motivated, and we fully anticipate that he's going to come back to us and he's going to have a far more productive season than he's had in the last two."
Gilman added the injury clearly impacted Raymond's performance, because he was unable to train for most of the summer of 2011 and it took him time to get mobile again and "get his bearings as a player." But the speedster's skating was as fluid as ever by season's end.
The assistant GM attributed Raymond's reduced production to an "off" year.
Raymond's agent J.P. Barry said the Cochrane, Alta., native has made a determined effort to recover from broken vertebrae suffered when he was checked backwards into the boards by Boston's Johnny Boychuk in the sixth game of the 2010-11 final. Raymond was not able to return to Vancouver's lineup until December.
"Last season was difficult for Mason," said Barry in an e-mail to The Canadian Press. "The injury he came back from was a very serious one and he worked extremely hard to get back playing even earlier than everyone expected.
"It is never easy for any player to step in mid-season and make an impact let alone step in following a significant injury. Mason is looking forward to next season, and I fully expect you will see a reinvigorated and motivated player."
Raymond has registered 156 career points (70 goals, 86 assists) in 328 games with the Canucks. He also represented Canada at the 2010 World Championships.
The six-foot, 185-pound forward was originally drafted by Vancouver in the second round (51st overall) of the 2005 NHL draft.