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FTB: NHL Players cite a lack of understanding on next season’s pay

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Was the pandemic player pay issue ever really settled?

NHLPA showcase event Toronto Star/Toronto Star via Getty Images

TVA broke a story last night about trouble brewing between the NHL and the NHLPA. Antoine Roussel was interviewed by Jean-Charles Lajoie of TVA Sports on the topic and Roussel said the league plans to pro-rate their pay by the number of games scheduled for the season, and the players “did not sign that.”

Les joueurs de la LNH ne sont pas de bonne humeur - TVA Sports
This is the original interview with Antoine Roussel.

The source document is the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the NHL and the NHLPA on behalf of the players in July. The MoU is written out as a list of edits to the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement, it is not a stand alone brand new CBA document. The MoU also has the rules of the Return to Play format.

At the heart of the dispute is the NHL’s ability to pro-rate player pay based on the number of games played vs. those in a normal 82 game season, and then the automatic salary escrow and salary deferral on top of that. Roussel indicates they believe they never agreed to allow salary to be pro-rated in that manner, citing the section of the MoU where they agreed to accept a salary at no less than 72% of the pay stated in their contract after escrow and deferral deductions.

Needless to say, if the NHL cuts the number of games for a 2021 season significantly, say by half, and salary is pro-rated and then compounded by salary deductions, player pay will decline significantly below that 72% mark. However, the player’s contracts contain a clause that appears to allow for the NHL to do this, and, more importantly, the MoU does not explicitly say that clause is deleted or at least temporarily suspended. Meaning this could all come down to interpretations over what is not said, rather than what is said.

It’s not clear to me how many players Roussel is speaking on behalf of, though his statements like “we never signed that” are quite emphatic it is the whole PA. There’s a lot still to hear on this from both sides and it will probably start coming out in the next few days because the league is already pushing plans to get next season on track. That pressure will only increase now that the NBA is considering a late December start to their next season.

It’s another chapter in the never ending labour disputes in this league. All we can do for now is say everyone’s favourite line “we’ll see where this goes.”

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