The NHL Players Association is set for talks with the league this week about a variety of topics but a major one will be the possibility of increasing the salary cap more than the projected $1 million discussed at general manager meetings last March.
According to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks, one proposal the NHLPA may be willing to agree to if the cap does elevate further is an extended 84-game regular season schedule as soon as next year. Since the 1995–96 season, each team in the NHL has played 82 regular season games, 41 each at home and on the road.
The NHLPA has made it clear in the past that they will not be willing to raise the escrow ceiling of six percent for each of the next three seasons as a trade-off for a cap increase. Escrow is basically where a certain percentage of money is held off the players’ paychecks and held (in escrow) until the NHL knows what their full revenue is for the year.
The players have been “in debt” to the league to the tune of about $1.1 billion due to pandemic-season related factors. So, their unwillingness to go further in escrow means that negotiations based on season length may be one of their only cards remaining to play if they want to increase the cap maximum.
Commissioner Gary Bettman has said in recent months that he is willing to negotiate with NHLPA executive director Marty Walsh, but at the time he was still narrowly focused on raising the escrow rates. If he doesn’t move off of that, the schedule proposal could still prove fruitless.
“It could be a discussion,” Bettman said in March. “We’re hearing around the bend from players and others that there may be interest in having that, but one thing to keep in mind if we’re going to raise the cap and the escrow hasn’t been paid off, is then we’re going to have to look at raising the escrow rates, which under the CBA extension in 2020 is locked into the last three years of the CBA term at 6 percent. So, if you’re going to raise the cap prematurely, then you’re going to have to look at the escrow percentage as well. The two are inextricably tied together.”
A cap increase would be good news for a team like the Washington Capitals as they head into an offseason of major transition. If the Caps can put more money toward their roster, the potential moves they make can increases not only in number but in significance.
Outside of salary cap concerns, the NHLPA and the league are expected to discuss shortening the fall training camp as well as the mess that is the Arizona Coyotes after voters in Tempe last week voted no to three referendums to build a new entertainment district, including a new arena for the Coyotes.
Brooks also reports that Coyotes players filed multiple complaints with the NHLPA during the season about “sub-standard travel, lodging, and logistical issues” that violated the collective bargaining agreement. Those concerns will also be discussed this week.
Update (1:50 pm): NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly has refuted the claims that Coyotes players made any sort of travel or lodging complaints to the NHLPA last season.
Here's what NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote: "There is no factual basis for the blurb. The only issue ever brought to my attention related to player concerns related to construction delays in connection with the completion of Mullett Arena. (more)…" https://t.co/u2vJ1cFfFf
— Craig Morgan (@CraigSMorgan) May 22, 2023
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