NHLPA

Rebooting World Cup of Hockey to be part of NHL labor talks

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — With labor talks having already begun on an informal basis, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and union chief Don Fehr are in favor of rebooting the World Cup of Hockey tournament and holding it every four years.

The stumbling block to laying out a long-term calendar of international competition, however, revolves around the hot-button topic of the NHL competing at the Winter Olympics after skipping out on South Korea last year.

”One of the things I hope we will have is an agreement to establish the long-term schedule for international events which would include World Cups of Hockey,” said Fehr, stressing the plural ”Cups” during an interview with The Associated Press at the league’s draft festivities in Vancouver, British Columbia, this past weekend. ”That’s a stand-alone event. It should not be seen as competing with or replacing the Olympics. It can be done.”

Bettman is on board when it comes to the World Cup.

”We think that’s a great event and it’s something we’ve been trying to work out for more than two years,” he said. ”We’re all in favor of setting an international calendar, and it takes two to tango, so to speak.”

There’s a caveat, of course, and the reason why the two sides aren’t tangoing just yet.

”We think the World Cup of Hockey can be a wonderful event, particularly if we don’t go to the Olympics,” Bettman said.

Though resolving a way to reduce the percentage of players’ salaries being held back annually in an escrow fund is the NHL Players’ Association’s most pressing concern with the collective bargaining agreement, international competition is also on the list.

And that’s where the World Cup – revived in 2016 – and Olympic Games participation will play a role once formal negotiations begin this summer leading up to September deadlines in which either side can choose to opt out and terminate the current CBA by the fall of 2020. The owners have until Sept. 1 and players on Sept. 15 to reach their decisions and set the clock ticking toward another potential work stoppage.

”There have been a series of discussions. I don’t think I would call them formal negotiations yet,” Fehr said. ”And if your next question’s going to be how it’s going to end up, I’m going to tell you, ask me in the middle of August because I don’t know yet.”

Players are unhappy with the league’s decision to skip the most recent Winter Games after having participated in the previous five. Shutting down the regular season for two weeks is an issue for owners, as was the time difference regarding South Korea, with games being played in the early morning for North American audiences.

The union sides with the league involving other issues regarding Olympic participation such as players’ medical insurance coverage and marketing rights.

None of those apply when it comes to the World Cup because it’s jointly controlled by the league and union, with both sides splitting the revenue.

The World Cup’s return was greeted with a tremendous amount of fanfare when Bettman and Fehr shared the podium at the 2015 all-star game festivities in Columbus, Ohio, to announce the eight-team event would be held in Toronto the following year.

There was even discussion – but no resolution – of having it held every four years. The World Cup was previously played in 1996 and 2004, and succeeded the Canada Cup, which was held five times from 1976-91.

Speaking only for himself and not the union, Fehr said he would prefer the NHL compete at the Olympics and then have the World Cup held every four years – with two years separating the events.

”If it was up to me, I’d do it all sooner rather than later, but we’ll see,” Fehr said. ”The question is, can we get the agreement on all the intervening pieces.”

Fehr noted the union and NHL can’t resolve the Olympic participation question alone in labor talks because outstanding issues must also be negotiated with the International Ice Hockey Federation and International Olympic Committee.

Bettman doesn’t see why the two sides can’t reach a deal on the World Cup, given they’re both in favor.

”Yes, so it should get done,” Bettman said. ”We’re going to ultimately come together and figure out something that everybody’s comfortable with.”

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NHL salary cap ceiling set at $81.5 million for 2019-20 season

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The NHL and NHLPA announced the salary cap range for the 2019-20 season on Saturday evening, and the upper limit is a bit lower than it was previously expected to be throughout much of the past season.

The league will have an $81.5 million cap ceiling for this upcoming season and a $60.2 million floor.

That means the cap increased $2 million from the $79.5 million ceiling the league had for the 2018-19 season.

Earlier projections for the number had the number going up as high as the $83 million mark.

The lower number is obviously going to be problematic for teams that already pressed against the cap as every little bit of money counts for those teams. It is going to be an especially big problem for a team like the Toronto Maple Leafs that already had limited room to work with, needs to figure out a way to sign restricted free agent Mitch Marner (a potential target for an offer sheet), while also making improvements to a roster that has not finished higher than third place or won a playoff series in each of the past three seasons.

Other teams that are going to be feeling the crunch include the Vegas Golden Knights, Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers, Washington Capitals, and Dallas Stars, all of which have less than $10 million to work with at the current time.

There are currently six teams still sitting below the salary cap floor: Philadelphia Flyers, Winnipeg Jets, New Jersey Devils, Columbus Blue Jackets, Ottawa Senators, and Colorado Avalanche.

Teams like the Jets and Avalanche will easily get there, especially once they do new contracts for restricted free agents like Patrik Laine (Winnipeg), Kyle Connor (Winnipeg) and Mikko Rantanen (Colorado).

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

NHL GMs still waiting for final 2019-20 salary cap numbers

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The wheeling and dealing has already begun ahead of the start of the 2019 NHL Draft this weekend. Between trades, buyouts, and extensions, general managers are getting to work on preparing for next season.

There is one problem, however, as Friday approaches and the draft begins. Due to the Stanley Cup Final going seven games, the calculations that determine the salary cap ceiling and floor have yet to be finalized. GMs were given a projection of an $83M ceiling back during their meetings in December, but official numbers may not be finalized until Saturday — and the upper limit may come in lower than expected.

The cap ceiling for the 2018-19 season was $79.5M, an increase from $75M from 2017-18.

Now, if you’re a general manager who likes to spend to the cap ceiling to maximize your efforts to win the Stanley Cup, well you’re in quite the holding pattern at the moment. The delay could also have a major impact on trade talks this weekend, possibly making for a quiet Friday night on the draft floor as general manager wait and see where the range ends up.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Escrow tops NHL players’ list of concerns ahead of CBA talks

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Jonathan Toews says he just wants his contract to be worth what it says on paper.

Right now, it’s not that simple.

Under terms of the collective bargaining agreement, NHL owners and players divide hockey-related revenue 50/50, and if player salaries exceed that split a certain percentage is withheld in escrow to make it even. The Chicago Blackhawks captain and fellow players have lost upward of 10% of their pay to escrow over the past seven seasons, which is why 25 of 31 NHL Players’ Association representatives surveyed by The Associated Press and Canadian Press named escrow as the biggest bargaining issue with September deadlines looming to terminate the current CBA effective the fall of 2020.

”A. escrow and B. escrow,” Toews said when asked the two biggest issues in labor talks.

Olympic participation, the definition of hockey-related revenue, post-career health care, concerns about youth squeezing out older players because of the salary cap and money were the other topics player reps pointed to as important to them.

Escrow, though, is a point of contention in locker rooms around the league. It is expected to be a significant topic in talks ahead of the owners’ Sept. 1 and players’ Sept. 15 deadline to opt out of this CBA and set the clock ticking toward another potential work stoppage.

”I think we, as players, are really educating ourselves on the economics of the game and how it works and why escrow is the way it is,” New Jersey Devils player rep Cory Schneider said. ”There are a lot of things that go into it, and we understand from the owners’ side how it works. But for us that’s definitely something that, it fluctuates quarter to quarter, year to year, so you never really know what it’s going to be and it’s hard to really understand what you’re earning or what your worth is when you’re getting a big chunk of it taken back.

”I don’t know if we’re going to eliminate it. Obviously we’ll figure that part out. But at least some way to mitigate it or control it better for us just to know what to expect.”

The CBA sets aside some part of a player’s salary in a bank account throughout the year. After the season, total revenue is calculated and if the league is not at its 50% share, it gets the escrow money to make up the difference.

NHLPA executive director Don Fehr said escrow has been discussed in talks with Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and expects more to come. But there’s no quick fix to reduce or eliminate escrow without changing substantial things about the economics of the league.

”Obviously it’s an irritant to players and from time to time it can be a big one,” Fehr said. ”But the question is how you do it. I mean, you can fix escrow by cutting salaries. I don’t think players are interested in doing that. So it has to become something that you address in a manner which makes sense for the players and addresses their concerns.”

A handful of players voiced their concern that revenues aren’t growing enough to compensate for the natural growth of salaries – and the cap – over time. Because seven of 31 teams are based in Canada, the fluctuation of the Canadian dollar affects everything, and players would like to find a solution to the entire financial picture, including a look at what counts as hockey-related revenue.

”There’s definitely a concern and always an emphasis on the revenues and us growing the game,” Toronto Maple Leafs player rep John Tavares said. ”That’s a top priority because I think when we see growth, we’re obviously going to see it on the business side. When you feel the hit of escrow on top of whatever taxes we have to pay, it’s definitely something that guys notice and something you don’t enjoy seeing. It’s important to us, but in saying that the bigger picture is the growth of the game. When that happens, when we do those things right, that’ll lead to more revenues that will hopefully lead to some adjustments.”

Commissioner Gary Bettman calls escrow ”a function of the cap” and said it’s going to be higher when that upper limit on salaries is higher.

”There are things you can do, either immediately or over time (where) you can manage the cap differently, which would manage the escrow, and those are things that obviously we need to be talking about,” Bettman said.

It’s not the only thing. Many players have expressed their desire to guarantee Olympic participation, though it seems impossible to collectively bargain because the International Ice Hockey Federation and International Olympic Committee are also involved. Countless business and political factors will go into whether the NHL sends its players to the Beijing Games in 2022.

One issue mentioned by players that can be bargained is how players are taken care of after they retire. Vancouver Canucks player rep Bo Horvat said medical coverage, treatment for concussion issues and other things matter.

He’s not alone in prioritizing that with talks ongoing and some optimism of maintaining labor peace because the issues are at least more straightforward than the last round of talks in 2012-13.

”Post-career stuff, health care stuff, lots of little things like that that are important to players as far as livelihood going forward,” Minnesota Wild player rep Devan Dubnyk said. ”The good news is there’s not anything major, but certainly some things we’re going to want to be talked about.”

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Bettman: NHL will discuss video review; no China preseason games in 2019

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BOSTON — There will plenty for the NHL’s Competition Committee and the League’s 31 general managers to discuss when both groups meet on separate dates next month, but the leading topic of discussion will be what to do with video review.

As we know, the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs have featured plenty of officiating controversies, highlighted by the missed hand pass by San Jose Sharks forward Timo Meier in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final that immediately lead to Erik Karlsson’s overtime winner against the St. Louis Blues. No one, outside of the Sharks and their fans, was happy with the missed called and the officials’ inability to review the play.

Meeting with the media ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that feedback will be solicited from the appropriate parties and then discussions will begins to either tweak the video review process or leave it unchanged.

“Consistency is going to be as important as anything else,” said Bettman, who also noted the League is concerned with slowing the game down. “We understand from the track record what the issue are and where the problems can be in implementation.”

What won’t happen is a reduction in what plays can be reviewed. “I don’t think you can go backwards anymore. That ship has sailed,” Bettman said.

NO CHINA GAMES IN 2019-20

China is set to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the country’s founding in the fall, which put a wrinkle in the NHL trying to finalize arrangements to hold preseason games in the country again next season. The Boston Bruins and Calgary Flames played two games in September as part of the League’s strategy to grow the game over there.

But the NHL is still attempting to have a presence in China in 2019.

“We’re going to double down on our efforts in China. We’re going to really ramp up our presence there,” said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. “Hopefully including over this summer with player visits and league visits, Players’ Association visits and the like. We’re going to continue to invest in grassroots and school programs and continue to fuel growth of youth hockey in China.”

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Bettman also responded to IIHF president Rene Fasel’s quote over the weekend at the World Championship that said he’d like to set a September 2020 deadline for the league to make a commitment to the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing. Bettman said nothing has been communicated to the league regarding that yet.

CBA DISCUSSIONS CONTINUE

The NHL and the NHL Players’ Association have continued having dialogue in hopes of avoiding another work stoppage at the end of the 2021-22 season. In September, both sides have the option to end the agreement one year early — after the 2020-21 season — but there’s still a long way to go before any final decisions are made.

“We both recognize what’s at stake come September in terms of each of us having unilateral right to shorten the agreement and have it expire in 2020, as opposed to 2022,” said Daly.

“When you think about where the game is and the state of the business of the game and how it’s grown, there’s a lot to be said for labor peace, and that’s something we’re very focused on,” Bettman said. “If you asked the Players’ Association, [Don Fehr] could list 10 or 15 things he’d like to change in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. We could probably do the same thing but ultimately this is going to come down to what’s most important.”

Talks between the sides will continue this summer.

“Everybody has their own thoughts It depends on what happens,” said Fehr. “We’ve got a board meeting in a couple of weeks. Then we’ll have player meetings all summer long. If we need another board meeting the end of August, first month of September, we will.”

NHL AND WOMEN’S HOCKEY

The NHL will continue watching as the “dust settles” in women’s hockey now that the CWHL has folded and 200 professional players have declared they will sit out the 2019-20 season in hopes of a long-term, economically viable solution Is found in North America.

“Whether or not it’s appropriate for us to get involved with a league, at least starting our own league, is something that not everybody agrees on from afar and it’s not anything we’ve focused on yet,” said Bettman.

The NHL was involved in set up the U.S.-Canada Rivalry Series in February and included Kendall Coyne Schofield, Brianna Decker, Rebecca Johnston and Renata Fast in NHL All-Star Weekend in January. Bettman said in the meantime they will continue to be involved in one-off ideas.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.