PHILADELPHA — PHILADELPHIA -- After all this time, the participants in the Ken Wregget salary arbitration case were expecting the decision to be announced with ruffles and flourishes.
Maybe arbitrator Monte Harris, who held the hearing in Toronto Oct. 24, would descend into the Spectrum carrying stone tablets. Or, at least, the fax machine would light up with a special emergency missive, announced by warning sirens.
For the past five weeks, goaltender Wregget, agent Rick Curran and Philadelphia Flyers general manager Russ Farwell could count on being asked about the case at least once a day. An incredible sense of anticipation was building.
So Farwell was thrown a bit off stride when he sat down to open his mail early Thursday morning -- after spending Wednesday out of the office -- and found a plain, ordinary envelope from Harris. Farwell recovered quickly enough, however, when he read Harris' 27-page decision. It basically upheld the Flyers' offer to Wregget and awarded him a one-year-plus-an-option-year deal for $300,000, plus incentive clauses that a source told the Philadelphia Daily News would amount to less than $100,000, if reached.
Once the decision arrived, it was Wregget's turn to be thrown off stride. He and Curran had asked for $500,000 or so, Wregget confirmed Thursday. Harris could have split the difference, or worked out any sort of compromise of his choosing. He chose a figure apparently just slightly above the Flyers' offer for a one-plus-one deal, but right on target with what they were offering for two-plus-one.
It all left Wregget questioning the validity of the process and his future with the Flyers. Wregget said he would play under the terms of the contract because "I don't really have a choice," but he made it clear he feels like something of a stepchild within the Flyers family.
"It makes you wonder how they feel about me," Wregget said. "I guess [with the lower-than-requested salary] my marketability stays up there."
Asked if the decision affected his relationship with Flyers management, Wregget said: "I'm playing to win. I'm playing for my teammates. I think that's good enough to get by with."
Wregget said he and Curran had thought the five-week delay meant Harris was laboring over the construction of a compromise, or at least that he saw a lot of merit in their position. Wregget said no such consideration was apparent in the ruling.
"If it was such a clear-cut decision, you'd think it would have been done sooner," Wregget said. "Something just doesn't seem right to me. A 27-page document on an outright loss doesn't make much sense . . . Apparently, the arbitrator didn't get the full picture of what my worth was to the team."
Harris's ruling was not made public. Curran did not return phone calls from the Daily News, and Farwell wouldn't discuss specifics. "He did look at both arguments very thoroughly," Farwell said.
Farwell, perhaps not wanting to further strain relations with Wregget, refused to acknowledge the Flyers had won.
"I would say the decision was somewhere in the middle," Farwell said initially. Later, after Farwell was told Wregget believed he had lost, Farwell said: "That's not exactly right, but I don't think either side wins in arbitration."
Farwell said he didn't think Wregget would be too bitter to remain with the Flyers.
"So much has been made of the arbitration and the watch [for a decision] and so forth, the guy [Wregget] is left in a tough position, left to defend the position they took," Farwell said. "I don't anticipate any problems with Kenny."
Farwell said the Flyers won't look to trade a goalie until Wregget, currently sidelined with a hip flexor injury, and Ron Hextall, out with a knee injury, return and remain healthy for a sustained period. The GM said he didn't think the decision affects Wregget's market value one way or the other.
Farwell said the decision gives Wregget, 26, a salary among the top 15 NHL goalies. He said he wasn't sure if Wregget would be among the top 10.
be flying around. There's not a whole lot I can do about that. As I said before, I've been traded 100 times since I've been here, 300 times since I've been in the league . . . I just have to get myself ready to play and play the best I can."