The NHL’s asking players to defer an additional 13-percent of their salaries for the 2020-21 season (on top of the 10 percent they actually agreed to defer), according to Larry Brooks of the New York Post.
NHL asks players to defer an additional 13-percent of salaries on top of other 2020-21 season concessions
(Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman ranks among those who backed up Brooks’ report. Friedman does note that the 13-percent deferral is not necessarily an “official” proposal just yet, though.)
As a reminder, players agreed to defer 10-percent of their 2020-21 salaries to make things work for a new CBA, and also the Return to Play for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In another part of that agreement, escrow was capped at 20 percent for 2020-21. So, previously, players were expecting to accept about 72 percent of their gross pay.
(Initially, the plan was for the 10-percent deferral to be repaid in three equal installments in October 2022, 2023, and 2024.)
If the NHLPA agrees to defer an additional 13-percent of salaries, Brooks and Friedman explain that players would receive about 61.6 percent of their gross play for the 2020-21 NHL season.
Naturally, that’s a big ask from the NHL to the players for the 2020-21 season. But Friedman does explain that such a setup would likely eliminate the threat of prorated salaries, a major sticking point in the MLB’s version of a return to play.
That would drop the players’ 2020-21 gross pay to about 62 per cent while eliminating the need to pro-rate. As you can imagine, the reaction was mixed, ranging from “why alter a deal that was made a few months ago?” to “not playing is a worse result.” (Payment schedule will be key.) It’s also possible the figure could be negotiated.
Some factors to consider
Like Friedman mentioned, it could be messy to ask the NHLPA to make more big concessions. After all, the players went through quite a bit to make the playoff bubble work, and were willing to bend for that new CBA.
Some might look at a 13-percent deferral as closer to breaking, not bending.
Don’t forget, the NHL’s been absolutely ruthless in previous CBA negotiations. The league hasn’t flinched when it came to lockouts. Even if that might resonate with an NHLPA executive such as Mathieu Schneider more than most active players, it’s unlikely that the union forgot.
There might be a reflex of “Oh, now you want someone to show mercy in negotiations, huh?”
Trying times, and a small window to figure things out
Yet, no doubt about it, one cannot forget the financial ramifications of COVID-19. It’s unclear if the 2020-21 NHL season will take place in hub cities. Teams seemingly prefer operating in their own buildings, with or without fans. We could see a mixture of those approaches based on COVID-19 rates, or state-by-state/national requirements.
All of those factors make it reasonable to curtail a 2020-21 NHL season to 60 games, or even 48. Being that league revenue is tied so crucially to box office receipts, there are just a lot of puzzle pieces to put together. Paying players for an 82-game season when you only play 48-60 games, and with attendance limits? Yeah, that could cost owners a lot of money.
Again, though, the players already made sacrifices to have the 2020 Stanley Cup awarded. Compromises almost certainly will be necessary for the 2020-21 season, too, but would an additional salary deferral be too much to ask from players?
With time being such an urgent consideration, the heat could really be on. Stay tuned.
Update: Players don’t sound keen to defer salary
Following an NHLPA board call, it sounds like the early reaction was that players aren’t keen to defer salary in this way. Pierre LeBrun explained as much:
NHLPA Board call wrapped up around 6:30 pm ET, went about 2 1/2 hours. No votes taken. Just a discussion. But sources say feeling on the call was that players aren't keen on changing salary deferral/escrow rates from what was already agreed to in June CBA. More discussion needed
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) November 18, 2020
LeBrun added some interesting insight to that:
The NHL views this as a timing issue. The players are only entitled to 50 % of HRR. The more they take this year, the more they owe (in debt payments) in future years. Which is true. But the NHLPA factored all those factors when it agreed to the new CBA terms in June. So…
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) November 19, 2020
Sounds like this could be a wild (and messy) ride.