There has been a lot of talk over the past 24 hours when it comes to a new collective bargaining agreement for the players and the NHL’s plan to get back to play. While the CBA has been a topic of discussion for a few weeks, it was a post by New York Rangers forward Artemi Panarin and subsequent posts by other players, including former NHL’er Ryan Kesler, that have added some life to the discussion.
Because of the new discussions and what Panarin believes might be a time-pressing opportunity for the players to leverage the best deal, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet is reporting that there is potentially a big issue brewing that could lead to delays in the scheduled return to play.
“According to multiple sources, the potential agreement between the NHL and NHLPA caps escrow at 20 percent for the 2020-21 season. Original guesstimates were escrow at 35 percent if this year did not finish, 27-28 even if it did.”
For those unfamiliar with the NHL’s escrow, it is a mechanism built into the CBA ensuring players and teams reach a 50-50 hockey-related revenue split. This is done by withholding a percentage of players’ salary each year. With the season on hold, the bigger escrow promised to the players is dropping. That leaves less for the players, especially free agents, and many players believe, like Panarin that it’s “time to fix the escrow” and that players “cannot report to camp to resume play without already having an agreement in place.”
Essentially, Panarin is suggesting players hold out until the CBA is agreed upon, noting that the players may never have the NHL at their mercy as they potentially do now. He may or may not have a point depending on where you sit with your current salary as an NHL’er.
Making matters even more interesting, Friedman adds that, as part of the agreement, the salary cap will be kept close to the current $81.5 million for the next three seasons with it possibly rising up $1 million in 2022-23. This could pose a huge issue for free agents looking to make big bucks in the next two-three seasons.
Player agent Allan Walsh described it in the following way:
The inherent insidiousness of the NHL’s salary cap system on full display. Player with an $11.6M cap hit (salary of $14M) is rightly outraged by escrow. However, a player pending UFA this summer wants the highest possible Upper Limit for the most robust market for his services.
One group of players want escrow eliminated, the other wants highest Upper Limit possible (which will bring with it higher escrow). The salary cap pits players with competing self-interests against each other. Player v. Player…Just the way the NHL likes it!
So, what exactly happens next? Is this a real issue? Does it stand to interrupt the NHL’s plan to return to action? Are a number of players thinking the way Panarin is thinking? Or, is this not an issue for most of the players who aren’t making what Panarin is?