The NHL and NHLPA may be headed down the same path as Major League Baseball — which is, having a contentious negotiation around the terms of its return to play plan — as tone-deaf bickering back and forth around money has begun to spill out into the public sphere.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman provided the latest update on the crucial — and souring — negotiations which before only recently were happening almost exclusively behind closed doors, reporting that players are “angry” and feel “betrayed” after the NHL asked that they take on more financial concessions than agreed upon in the deal brokered around the original return to play this past summer.
Friedman reports that the NHL laid out two options for the players to address the financial losses that have been proven to be grossly underestimated.
The first was to raise both the deferral payment percentage and escrow for this upcoming season, meaning that the cuts would be more significant, but limited to this season to allow the league to get back on its feet. The second option was a more significant ask in up-front deferral pay, and for escrow to be raised a few percentage points only in the final three years of the six-year deal brokered over the summer.
Under both scenarios, the players are being asked to forfeit more money through the escrow system, which clearly and understandably touched a nerve. Friedman reports that one player said “there were audible gasps” on the conference call when the options were presented, because it represents nothing more than forfeited wages.
Maybe less of an issue than the fact that several players have already received money in the form of a signing bonus that would exceed the deferral targets is the fact that a small minority of players only recently negotiated deals based on the escrow system finalized over the summer.
For example, the biggest free-agent signing, Alex Pietrangelo, had 56 percent of his total salary strategically backloaded into the final three years of his seven-year agreement in an effort to minimize escrow penalty and maximize his earnings. Should the NHLPA select the second option under what could ultimately be an ultimatum, Pietrangelo would be paying into escrow with the significant portion of his salary he only a few weeks ago successfully negotiated to protect.
If nothing else, it’s one of many issues that must be reconciled — or at least considered — as the NHL and NHLPA clash over money with the clock ticking toward the targeted Jan. 1 start date.
It’s officially crunch time.
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