Are NHL Players Getting a Fair Deal With the New CBA?

Photo Credit: media.nhl.com

As many of you may know by now, the NHL took another huge step towards returning this summer on Monday. The NHL and NHLPA officially reached a memorandum of understanding surrounding a return to play. You can find the official documents on that here and here. Or, you can check out TSN insider Bob McKenzie’s article here that summarizes the major points of it.

But, that wasn’t the only tentative agreement reached. Changes to and a four-year extension of the current CBA (collective bargaining agreement), which will bring it through the 2025-26 season since there are still two years left on the current one, were also negotiated. These agreements are part of a package deal currently going through the voting/ratification process. The NHLPA Executive Board has already approved it, and the players themselves have until Friday to cast their votes before the NHL Board of Governors votes at 4 pm on Friday. A simple majority of each is required for the agreement to be ratified.

Enough of those details though. There’s been plenty of talk and speculation about that these past few days. The return to play plan includes the option for players to opt-out without penalty if they don’t feel comfortable playing. Because of that, it shouldn’t hold up ratification, because there shouldn’t be many players on returning teams who object to it anymore. The real question that’ll affect ratification is whether or not the players are getting a fair deal with the new CBA. Thankfully, the short answer is they absolutely are. Here are a few reasons why.

Escrow Low Compared to Others

Now, I’m not going to sit here and pretend I’m an expert on escrow. But, you don’t have to know much to know that low escrow is good. As part of this new CBA, the players can pay no more than 20% escrow next season. At first glance, this may not make you jump for joy. But, when you compare it to other leagues, it’s amazing. It was rumored yesterday that NFL players could have to pay upwards of a staggering 35% depending on how much revenue they lose this season.

Given how much revenue the league lost this season, 20% escrow really isn’t bad. It could’ve been a lot worse, as we’re seeing with the NFL. The fact that the NHL, which makes far less money than the NFL and is therefore hit harder by revenue losses, is letting their players possibly getting away with paying 15% less escrow on significantly smaller contracts, is surprising. The players should be sprinting to sign off on this before the NHL changes their minds.

The Olympics are Back in Play

Another big thing the players got out of Commissioner Gary Bettman was Olympic participation. It’s no secret that Bettman hates players going to the Olympics. It’d take a while to explain why, so you can read a few of the big reasons here. It’s also no secret that the players were really upset when the NHL pulled out of the 2018 Pyeonchang Olympics. Bettman had been saying that his stance on the Olympics hasn’t changed, but the players pushed hard and were able to include it in the new CBA. Now, pending negotiations with the IOC (which shouldn’t be an issue), the NHL will send its players to the 2022 Bejing and the 2026 Milan Olympics.

I know I’m not alone in being extremely excited about this. The top players work their whole lives to be the best, and they deserve the chance to represent their country on the world stage. It’s a special thing for them. Also, from a fan’s perspective, it’s just way more fun to watch the Olympics with NHL players. The men’s hockey in 2018 was nowhere near as exciting without them.

No Limit to Signing Bonuses 

Another thing that Bettman and many other top executives have been vocal about not liking is massive signing bonuses on contracts. Unlike salaries, signing bonuses are guaranteed money for the players, even if they don’t play. The NHL has been outspoken against them but never really given a reason why. I think it’s largely due to the fact that the NHL loses quite a bit of leverage in labor negotiations if the players are going to get paid even if they don’t play. But like I said, I don’t know that for sure.

Regardless of why, the NHL pushed hard to place a limit on the amount of signing bonuses in the new CBA. Rumor has it they wanted to cap them at 50% of the total contract cost. But, they relented, and there will be no limit imposed on signing bonuses for the foreseeable future. That’s a huge bonus for the players that get them.

Playoff Share Doubled

Every year, each player that participates in the playoffs gets a share of a $16 million pool, which is calculated by how deep their team goes in the playoffs. But, this year, that pool is doubling to $32 million. A player that is on a team eliminated in the play-in round will get $20,000, with a player on the Stanley Cup winning team getting $240,000. Considering how much revenue the league has lost this year, it’s crazy that the players were able to even negotiate a larger prize pool, much less one double the size of a normal one. And it’s yet another reason why they should be running to vote yes on this deal.

But Wait, There’s More

Those three things alone are good enough to show that the players are getting a steal with the new CBA. But, those are only the things they got that the NHL really didn’t want to give up. There are a lot more perks included in this new deal, and we don’t even have all the details yet. Player’s on entry-level deals have the potential to earn more money now. The minimum salary is increasing to $750,000 next year (or possibly the year after, some reports have said that it was tweaked since it was first reported, others are saying it’s still the same). It’ll make it’s way to $800,000 by the end of this deal. 

Not only all that, but players will no longer have to rehab injuries in their team’s home city. They’re allowed to pick one wherever they want to unless the league proves whichever they pick isn’t equipped to handle it. Players will also now receive a retirement healthcare subsidy between $3,500 and $5,000. Finally, any no-trade or no-move clauses that a player has will now follow them if they’re traded. 

The player’s probably gained even more than this as part of the new CBA. But, since it hasn’t been ratified yet, not all of the details have been released. Check out TSN insider Frank Seravalli’s article here for all of the details we know right now. Even if they didn’t gain anything else though, as you can see they’ve already gained a ton. Plus, as an added bonus, they really didn’t give up much. I truly don’t see any reason why the players shouldn’t sign off on this, so I think it’s a pretty safe bet they’ll vote to ratify it.

How Did the Players Get So Much?

You may be asking yourself how the players were able to get so much out of Bettman. It’s especially surprising given how bad the NHL and NHLPA have been at negotiating labor peace in the past. It’s frankly shocking they were able to negotiate this at all. But, the smartest thing the NHLPA has ever done was negotiate this now. They held all of the leverage over Bettman this time around since this was a package deal with the return to play. Since Bettman wants to complete the playoffs so badly, he gave the NHLPA far more than he probably would’ve at any other time.

So, yeah, NHL players are getting a fair deal with this new CBA. In fact, they’re getting way more than they could’ve hoped for under normal circumstances. In my opinion, if they don’t vote to ratify it, it’ll be one of the stupidest things they’ve ever done. But, obviously, I have no say in the decision, so we’ll just have to wait until the results are released on Friday.

-Lydia Murray (@lydia_murray12)

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