The NHL and the NHLPA next September "must announce their intentions" regarding the opening of the current CBA in the fall of '20, but it appears the league and its owners "aren’t frothing at the mouth for a battle," according to Pierre LeBrun of THE ATHLETIC. Owners got their "hard salary cap by laying waste to an entire season" in '04-05 and then sacrificed a half year in '12-13 to "bring the players’ revenue share down" to 50%. They have been "largely satisfied ever since." LeBrun: "I believe the NHL’s Board of Directors before the Sept. 1, 2019 deadline, will vote not to re-open the current deal." If the owners "vote to stay in the current deal, that will put the focus squarely on the players, who have until Sept. 15, 2019, two weeks later, to announce their intentions." NHLPA Exec Dir Don Fehr said, "It is fair to say that the players understand the magnitude of the concessions that were made last time around. And it’s front and centre in their memories." He added, "I would be astonished if by mid-summer we don’t both know whether either party is going to open." Oilers C Connor McDavid: "The NHL is starting to gain a little bit of momentum. ... We’re starting to build a little bit of steam here and I don’t think either party wants to give that up. Because ultimately you’re almost giving it all back if you have a lockout." LeBrun wrote no owner will ever be "totally happy, some teams are still struggling, but no doubt this is as quiet as it’s been in a long time from their camp" (THEATHLETIC.com, 9/11).
BIGGEST ISSUES: THE ATHLETIC's LeBrun noted the "two biggest bugaboos" for the players heading into the next CBA are escrow and non-Olympic participation. Currently the players' escrow is setup to "ensure the hard cap reality"of a 50-50 Hockey Related Revenue split. It is "annoying as hell for the players." They want to "earn closer to what their actual salaries are." One obvious solution is to "slow down the rise of the salary cap so that players aren’t eating up more than 50 percent of HRR." In some ways, the NHLPA has done just that by "negotiating less than the five percent 'growth factor' with the league the past few years when determining the final salary cap number." However, it probably "needs to be even more than that." Meanwhile, Olympic participation is a "must for players moving forward, whether that's part of the next CBA or negotiated in a side agreement." Missing out on last February’s Pyeongchang Games was a "crushing blow for the game’s top players." The '22 Beijing Games "has to be on the table for them." McDavid joined the likes of Maple Leafs C Auston Matthews, Sabres C Jack Eichel, Avalanche C Nate MacKinnon, Jets RW Patrik Laine and many others from the "new wave of young stars in the NHL that had their first potential Olympic dream dashed." Eichel said, "That’s the biggest of biggest stages. To not be able to go was frustrating" (THEATHLETIC.com, 9/12).
LET THEM PLAY: Wayne Gretzky became the latest voice to say that the NHL should "allow its players to compete in the Winter Olympics." He added the he "hopes the league and players’ association can 'somehow figure this out' during upcoming talks." Gretzky: "There’s something really unique and special about playing for your country" (AP, 9/13).