Big Issue For NHLPA In CBA Negotiations Is Escrow

NHLPA CBA
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 18: (L-R) Executive Director of the National Hockey League Players Associatio Donald Fehr, International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel and National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman speak during a press conference on day eleven of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 18, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The NHL and NHLPA continue to meet to discuss issues surrounding extending the current CBA. Even though the NHL has decided not to opt-out of the CBA, the NHLPA still has a decision to make. So far things have remained cordial between the two sides. All that could change if the players decide to opt-out of the CBA. Since the game is in a good state, another work stoppage would be harmful. Both sides know this.

Escrow Big Issue For Players

As the clock continues to tick down to the September 15th deadline for when the NHLPA has to decide to opt-out of the current CBA, one of the issues at the heart of these negotiations is escrow. Escrow is a percentage of the players’ salaries being deducted and placed into an account until the league determines how much of that money must be paid to the owners to achieve a 50/50 revenue split.

The current salary cap system and escrow went into effect in 2005, after the lost season and the first salary cap. Things were tweeked in 2013, but that mainly changed the percentage of Hockey-Related-Revenue given to the players, and some of the free agency rules. While the calculations were changed, the system for dealing with them, escrow remained intact. With a rising salary cap (due to the escalator clause), teams are giving players larger contracts, but revenues are not keeping up. Because of this, players are losing more than 10 percent of their annual salaries through escrow. The NHLPA could have used the escalator clause to raise the salary cap to $83 million this off-season but opted not to. The thing on their minds was to reduce the escrow percentage.

Players’ Comments

Several players believe that they should be paid what their contract says they should be paid, as Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks told John Dietz of the Daily Herald in Chicago.

“I’m no financial expert,” Jonathan Toews told John Dietz. “All I see is that I’ve signed a contract and to me, it’s not exactly being honored. So I don’t care what business you’re in — to me, that’s kind of ridiculous.”

Toews was not the only player who shared the same opinion. San Jose Sharks defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic feels that it should not be the players’ job to figure out how to equalize revenue as he told Alex Didion of NBC Sports Bay Area.

“I mean, players sign a big contract, and they get 15 percent taken away immediately because of escrow, Vlasic told the media. It’s not our job to take care of (equalizing revenues). Players keep saying year after year that they don’t like escrow. Now’s the time to put on the big-boy pants.”

Among other issues important to the players are Olympic participation and the definition of hockey-related revenue. Not to mention post-career health care, concerns about youth squeezing out older players because of the salary cap and money.

What Can Fans Expect Going Forward

The last thing any fan wants is another work stoppage. With four previous work stoppages, another would be damaging to the sport of hockey. However, there is no indication one way or another in which way the players are leaning. That is why the players’ decision is so important. The players will continue to weigh all of their options very carefully. With things being cordial between both sides, the last thing everybody wants is any bad blood.

Unlike previous years, these CBA negotiations are not playing out in the media. While Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Donald Fehr have made comments, neither will go to the extent of calling out the other. Both sides are finally realizing the best way to a new deal is to keep quiet. The peace in the media is a good thing as the negotiations keep moving forward.

The next meeting between the NHL and NHLPA is slated for Monday, September 9th in New York City.

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Jim is a 2008 graduate of Saint Michaels College who is currently writing about the NHL for Last Word on Hockey. His work includes writing about the New Jersey Devils as well as NHL Notebooks for the Metro and Central Division. Jim has a passion for the game of hockey. As one coach put it "he is the student of the game." When Jim is not writing he can be found at the local rinks playing or being a referee. Throughout his time in the game, Jim coaches a local high school team in New Jersey. In addition, he broadcasted several New Jersey Junior Rockets games for the Eastern Hockey League. Reach him on Twitter: @JimBiringer

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