The NHL and NHLPA have been cranky with each other over the last week and there have been some concerning headlines such as Gary Bettman says NHL not trying to back out of CBA and NHLPA weighing options if NHL cancels season.
But on Friday, there were finally some “positive developments” — Elliotte Friedman’s words, not mine — on next season. According to Friedman, “it sounds like” the NHL’s Escrow Ask of the players is going away and many the details for next season have been settled.
Friedman made his comments to Sportsnet 590 The Fan on Friday morning.
— Sportsnet 590 The FAN (@FAN590) December 4, 2020
“So yesterday, there was a tweet by Chip Alexander that covers the Hurricanes for the Raleigh News and Observer where he talked about the general manager of the Hurricanes thinks games will be played sometime in January,” Friedman said. “Says there could be a resolution of NHL/NHLPA discussions in a few days concerning the number of games this season and salary implications.”
Alexander’s tweeted that there could be a resolution of discussions in the coming days and that the Hurricanes’ general manager thinks games will be played sometime in January.
Canes GM Don Waddell tells Centennial Authority he thinks games will be played in PNC Arena "sometime in January." Says there could be a resolution of NHL/NHLPA discussions in the next few days concerning number of games this season and salary implications.
— Chip Alexander (@ice_chip) December 3, 2020
“So obviously, that was an eyebrow-raising tweet,” Friedman said. “Okay. We’ve got an NHL president and GM here who is optimistic. Why is he optimistic? And I got my answers this morning. Not from Don. He wouldn’t go any further.
“I believe in the last few days, the league and the players have engaged in conversations about a start on January 15 with training camps opening approximately two weeks earlier,” Friedman continued. “The number of games would be in the 50’s. I had some people telling me 52. I had some people telling me 56. But they’ve re-engaged on this.”
The seven NHL teams that did not participate in the 2020 playoffs would get some extra time to practice during training camp.
“The non-playoff teams would report like in the last few days of December,” Friedman said. “They’d get two or three more extra days. The playoff teams would report around New Year’s Day. I think that the end of the regular season would be at the beginning of May. They’d build in that schedule with a buffer zone in case they had to make up games. I’m hearing the season would be over sometime around the end of June, beginning of July. That’s what they’re talking about here.”
The most contentious discussions about the return to play have been about the financials next season. Despite signing a new CBA with the NHLPA in the summer, Gary Bettman wanted players to defer more money this season — approximately $300 million — as the prospect of having fans in arenas during next season became less realistic.
Under our deal, and the one we’ve had for more than a decade with the players’ association, whatever the revenues are the players only get 50 percent. And if we overpay them and they don’t pay us back in the short term, they have to pay us back over time. There will be stresses on the system and we’ve had discussions about what those stresses are and how they might be dealt with, but we’re not trying to say ‘You must do X, Y, and Z.’ We’re trying to look for ways to continue to work together.
I know it’s being portrayed as something else and it’s unfortunate and it’s inaccurate because at the end of the day if the system gets stressed, it’s going to be stressed for both of us. If we have to pay out lots of cash — two-thirds of which is going to come back to us —that may cause some stresses but we can, or we’ll have to deal with it if we’re going to move forward.
And by the same token, if the players owe us more money than anybody imagined, the salary cap could well be flat or close to flat for the next five or six years, and players into the future will be repaying what we’re owed. So the question isn’t, like ‘Woah, we demand a renegotiation.’ To the contrary, it’s ‘we see the way the system’s going to be impacted. Is it something that makes sense to deal with in the context of everything else that we may have to do, which is out of the ordinary and unanticipated in order to be in a position to possibly play?’
The NHL has faced strong pushback from the players and appear to be giving up the fight.
Just heard from the players' side: Has nothing to do with Christmas. League sets the schedule, and hasn't scheduled anything because it doesn't want to abide by the terms of the MOU. https://t.co/KHimA1cDJI
— Kevin McGran (@kevin_mcgran) December 2, 2020
“The financial issues, I don’t have a full picture on but it sounds like the Escrow Ask about changing the caps is going away because I think everyone realizes here the players were not willing to agree to that but they are more willing to talk about deferrals,” Friedman said. “I don’t know where that is, but that’s the information I’m getting as I wake up this morning.
“It sounds like to me the teams were kind of informed that were positive developments coming,” Friedman said. “We’re moving in that direction. We’re going to play, guys.”
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