With the clock ticking on the NHL and the NHL Players Association, a January 1st start date is beginning to look doubtful
It’s been a total of 255 days since the Ottawa Senators last played a game of NHL hockey and we sit here in the midst of November wondering how many more we’ll have to withstand. The NHL has elected to re-enter bargaining with the players association on the premise that the players accept an additional payment deferral. Prior to the recent playoff restart, the NHL PA agreed to take a 10% salary deferral for this upcoming 20-21 season. The league is now asking its players to take an additional 16% deferral, meaning the players would have to wait to see over a quarter of their 20-21 earnings.
What does that mean exactly?
To break this bargaining jargon down into laymen’s terms, if player X is due to receive $8million dollars in earned salary this season, he will earn a hair under $6Million this season and instead have to wait to see his remaining $2million dollars.
The Players association is somewhat rightfully exacerbated by the NHL’s latest ask considering the latest CBA was agreed upon just a few months prior to this negotiation.
Quite frankly, the state of the coronavirus is in worse shape than the NHL owners anticipated at the time of the CBA negotiation. After crunching some numbers the NHL discovered that with the prospect of mass reduced revenues and empty buildings (for the most part), there’s little to no profit margins to gain for their business.
Can this be worked out?
Yes! I don’t think salary deferral is a huge issue and it’s a completely separate ask from proration of salary which refers to making a portion of your earnings based on the number of games played. If the latter were the ask from the NHL there would be little hope of a January start date and not much hope of a return at all. Thankfully I think both sides will come to their senses and reach an agreement. The PA is likely hurt by the termination of an agreed-upon CBA just a few months prior. Once they’re out of their feelings, they’re surely going to counter offer and ask for something else in return to attempt to even the playing field. The other positive sign is that neither side, Bettman nor Fehr has shut the other out and talks continue on the subject of return. Fact is, both sides want the same thing, to play hockey. For the NHL, hockey returning is not exactly profitable this season but at the expense of losing fan interest, it’s not worth a lockout and for the players, they want to get paid. The biggest question that remains is the timeline.
When will the Sens play hockey again?
Really the burning question that we all want to know so that we can move on from talking about the business of the game and get back to the things we like to talk about, the Senators. Ottawa hasn’t played in quite some time and there are many exciting storylines to follow in training camp. If talks somehow go from bad to smooth in the next week or so, a January 1st start date is still doable, albeit maybe a stretch. That scenario would also include an early camp (as agreed upon prior to starting up) for the 7 non-playoff teams including Ottawa. Camp would get underway on December 7th in this best-case scenario.
My personal belief is that both sides will counter each other until finally a deal is reached and that could take a couple of weeks, possibly even a month. At that time, when you factor in logistics and lockdowns thanks to the world as we know it, a January start seems next to impossible. It also likely means a reduced schedule and another interesting playoff format. At the end of all of this, I’m optimistic that we’ll see Senators Hockey in 2021, but when exactly that is now solemnly lies in the hands of the NHL and the NHLPA.