Things aren’t going that well between the NHL and the NHLPA right now.
On Monday, word emerged that the league was asking players to defer an additional 13 percent of their 2020-2021 pay. This was part of the return-to-play negotiations taking place this week.
The players have already agreed to a 10 percent deferral as part of July’s collective bargaining agreement.
On Wednesday and Thursday, we learned the players did not react well to the league’s idea. According to Sportsnet’s Elliote Friedman, players are “angry and feel betrayed.”
This is because they largely assumed that the agreed-upon deal from July was the deal. They also believe that the NHL should have presented this proposal sooner. Everyone knows the NHL is on the clock in terms of starting on January 1 of 2021.
There is a point to that reasoning. If the NHLPA debates or explores this idea of deferral, they are the ones holding up the process. The league wants to get things going and the players will be standing in the way. At least that’s how it will appear optically.
There are issues with timing, but most people believe that the NHL and NHLPA will come up with a deal. Nobody wants to sit out the year and the targeted start date is still the standard. Players want to play, owners want hockey, fans want hockey.
But this is definitely a wrinkle and it will have to be addressed. It could generate several years of mistrust, but the NHL says it’s contending with financial reality. The impacts of the coronavirus pandemic were more significant than originally thought. There weren’t enough protections built in to the contracts and negotiations in July. The league claims it is making up for the shortfall and asking the players to do their part.
Sources say the league presented two proposals to the NHLPA. The first involved impacts to compensation only in the 2020-2021 season. The rate would be 20 percent of deferred compensation, with escrow cap turning to 25 percent from the previously agreed-upon 20 percent.
The second proposal wanted to raise deferred compensation to 26 percent and left escrow alone until years four through six of the CBA, subsequently raising it from six percent to eight and a half or nine percent. For the players, this was a definite no-go.
How will this shake out? That all depends. Right now, the players aren’t too happy about getting paid only about 61 percent of their salary for the coming year while also isolating from their families in whatever hub cities the league has in mind.
And they aren’t happy about the extraordinary step of renegotiating a CBA mere months after it was signed into action, COVID or no COVID. It sets a dangerous precedent in the eyes of the players.
The good news is that the coming season doesn’t seem to be in jeopardy as a result of these recent moves. All sides want to get something done and are agreeing to continuation of negotiation. The league didn’t present its proposal as an ultimatum and the players will hash things out in the coming days.
That, at least, is the hope.