NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 19, 2020
The players aren’t receptive to changing salary deferral or escrow rates, plus the latest on Pierre-Luc Dubois, Olli Juolevi and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
LATEST RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the NHL Players Association isn’t keen on changing salary deferral and escrow rates agreed upon in the extension to the collective bargaining agreement. This emerged from yesterday’s PA board meeting. No vote was taken on the subject as part of the discussion.
LeBrun said this is a timing issue for the NHL. Players are entitled to 50 percent of hockey-related revenue. The more they take this year, the more they’ll owe in debt payments in later years. However, the PA took that into account when it agreed to the CBA extension.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the league asked for an additional salary deferment and for the players to consider raising the escrow rate. Under the memorandum of understanding, escrow is capped at 20 percent for 2020-21, with the rate dropping to six percent for each of the final three years of the agreement. The league reportedly requested to increase that rate to 8 or 9 percent. The players believe the league now seeks an additional $300 million in savings.
The requests indicate the league has concerns over revenue shortfalls exceeding previous projections. Without fan attendance, the 50/50 revenue split tilts in the players’ favor. He wonders how the shortfall will be made up and under what mechanism if the escrow rate is too low.
Friedman doesn’t believe this will derail the return-to-play plans as both sides are keen to return to the ice. Nevertheless, the league’s request didn’t sit well with the players.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports the league sought an additional 13 to 16 percent in salary deferral on top of the 10 percent already agreed to under the MOU, as well as raising the escrow rate on those final three years to as much as 9.5 percent. Brooks claimed the league’s requests “annoyed, if not angered, the union membership participating in the call.”
The NHL’s requests, however, weren’t delivered in the form of an ultimatum. Brooks said the PA will likely identify issues, “perhaps systemic issues,” that it would like reopening in a renegotiation.
Brooks also reported a preliminary 60-game schedule was delivered to the NHL and NHLPA within the last 48 hours. He also cited sources claiming the CBA discussions aren’t expected to derail ongoing discussions for the tentative Jan. 1 start date.
TORONTO SUN: Lance Hornby reported more than 100 members of the PA took part in yesterday’s call, including its executive, return-to-play committee, team reps and some rank-and-file members. They feel they made significant long-range financial sacrifices and consenting to spend weeks in the 2020 playoff bubble away from their families.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The players are within their right to reject those requests after making substantial concessions in the recent CBA extension. Still, the league is also justified in its concern over higher-than-expected revenue shortfalls.
The MOU was agreed to at a time when it was hoped the pandemic would recede, allowing the NHL to stage its 2020-21 schedule with a full schedule and fans in the stands. However, that’s not going to happen while the second wave of the pandemic rages across the United States while COVID rates rise at alarming levels in the provinces where the Canadian teams reside.
PuckPedia indicates one problem with salary deferral is there are 26 players whose salaries cannot be deferred because of the large signing bonuses in their contracts. They include Toronto Maple Leafs forwards Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and John Tavares, Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid, New York Rangers winger Artemi Panarin and Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price.
The hockey-related revenue issue remains a significant sticking point even if it isn’t currently jeopardizing the return-to-play discussions. The two sides don’t have much time to work this out if they hope to meet their timeline to open the season on New Year’s Day. It’ll be interesting to see what transpires between now and the end of November.
IN OTHER NHL NEWS…
NHL.COM: Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen remains confident his club will re-sign Pierre-Luc Dubois before training camp opens for the 2020-21 season. The 22-year-old center is a restricted free agent completing his entry-level contract.
SPORTSNET: Olli Juolevi is finally healthy after several injuries delayed his transition to the Vancouver Canucks. The 22-year-old defenseman was the sixth-overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.
OTTAWA SUN: Senators prospect Tim Stuetzle was named to Team Germany for the 2021 World Junior Championships.
TSN: Senators prospect Ridly Greig tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 8. He’s asymptomatic and self-isolating at home. He hopes to join Canada’s world junior selection training camp on Nov. 22 when his 14-day quarantine period is over.
THE SCORE: Speaking of the 2020 WJC, Canada’s deputy chief of public health is optimistic about the proposed health and safety protocols for staging the tournament in Edmonton. “I think the proposals and what’s been put forward to us at the present time look very promising. It looks very good,” said Dr. Howard Njoo. The WJC will be held under quarantine bubble conditions similar to those of the NHL during its 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.
CBC.CA: Former NHL star Rick Vaive recently released his biography titled “Catch 22: My Battles in Life and Hockey.” He details his feuds with former Toronto Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard and former Hockey Night in Canada commentator Don Cherry, as well as his struggles with alcohol addiction.