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NHL seeking additional deferment on player salaries, raise on escrow caps

Quickie blog on the latest NHL negotiation developments:

During a lengthy NHLPA conference call on Wednesday afternoon, players were notified that the league made two requests for amendments to the latest CBA. The first, as reported Tuesday night, was to ask for an additional deferment on 2020-21 salaries (players have already agreed to 10 per cent).

The second was to consider raising the “escrow caps” in the final three seasons of the newly negotiated deal.

Escrow is capped at 20 per cent for next season, with that number dropping to six per cent in years four, five and six of the CBA. I’m not certain of the exact wording, but multiple sources indicated a request to consider in the eight or nine per cent range. (Escrow is used to make sure the league and the players split revenue 50/50.)

The idea was not received with great enthusiasm, to put it mildly. Several players indicated via text that this is a “non-starter,” and they don’t want to consider it. They are under the impression the league is looking for an additional $300 million in savings.

It’s a sign that, five months after the new agreement was completed, the league is concerned about COVID-19-related shortfalls exceeding what was previously projected. Without fans, that 50/50 revenue split will tilt heavily toward the players. The question is: when will it be made up, and under what mechanism if the current escrow caps are too low?

I don’t believe these developments jeopardize the 2020-21 season (the players want to get going and so does NHL commissioner Gary Bettman), but there’s no doubt this is as welcome to the union as acne on prom night. It’s thrown a wrench into the works and players are upset.

If there’s any hope to starting Jan. 1, any agreement needs to be done by end of November. The clock is ticking and we’ve got some new hurdles.

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