The NHL would normally be two months into its season. Instead, because of coronavirus concerns and labor issues, the league hasn’t figured out when training camps and the season will start.

If they do start.

Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, insists the league is not trying to renegotiate the CBA; the players believe otherwise, and they are unhappy the league wants to change the salary deferral/escrow rates.

With owners expected to lose millions because fans probably won’t be able to attend games this season, the league wants the players to agree to raise the cap on salary escrow and to defer more of their salaries.

The players are balking, saying both sides executed a CBA extension in July. The extension runs through 2025-26.

“How much revenue was going to be created [this season] was certainly accounted for,” Flyers left winger James van Riemsdyk, the team’s player representative, said Thursday in a phone interview from his recently built Minnesota home. “The agreement was made four or five months ago … and we prepared for different scenarios that could happen. It’s not like we did this agreement in January and then the pandemic hit and it’s a different world we’re living in. This agreement was negotiated with all this in mind and trying to map out the next few years.”

The CBA extension was forged in July, about four months after the pandemic temporarily halted the season.

“We wanted to get a little bit of stability to the industry, and to help teams and players plan for different things going forward,” said van Riemsdyk, 31, a Central Jersey native. “As players, we’re ready to roll and ready to play and uphold the agreement. We’re just waiting to hear from the owners, but we’re ready to get started.”

In addition to labor issues, the league is trying to decide how many games to play, whether they will be held in home arenas or in a hub city for each of the four divisions, and when to start the season.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman leads the league in talks with the players.
Charles Krupa / AP
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman leads the league in talks with the players.

So will both sides come to a compromise on financial matters? Will the league soon announce when training camps will open? Will there even be a season?

According to TSN in Canada, the players’ association’s lawyers are investigating whether to file an unfair practice complaint with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board or pursue a grievance with an arbitrator if the NHL decides to cancel the season. The legal steps might be taken to try to get the players paid.

For the upcoming season, players are due 72% of their salaries; 20% would be given back to the owners to to repay the revenue shortfall from the shortened 2019-20 season. There is also a 10% deferral that will be repaid by owners over three seasons.

The NHL is also asking players to defer another 16% this season and to raise escrow limits in future years.

These “asks” by the NHL are not putting the players in a holiday mood.

“The key point now is that there already is an agreement in place for the next six years,” said van Riemsdyk, who has been working out in his Minnesota home, skating at a nearby rink, and spending lots of time with seven-month daughter, Scarlett. “It’s just a matter now of executing that and finding out when we’re going to start and go from there.

“Again, four or five months ago, all these negotiations were done knowing there was a pandemic going on, knowing there could be a few different scenarios as to what the world could look like – whether that was no fans, full arenas. All these things were accounted for,” van Riemsdyk said.

Van Riemsdyk said the players “upheld part of the deal, which was for us to come back to finish last season within the bubble. That was part of the agreement, too. We started it off by living up to our end of it.”

Meanwhile, some owners say if fans aren’t allowed in arenas this season, they may not be able to recover from the lost revenue. Most teams generate between $1.5 million and $3 million per regular-season home games.

Breakaways

Goalie Alex Lyon is the latest player to start working out at the Flyers’ training facility in Voorhees, joining Ivan Provorov, Samuel Morin, Nic Aube-Kubel, Shayne Gostisbehere, Tanner Laczynski, and Carsen Twarynski. ... Nolan Patrick, who missed all of last season with a migraine disorder, is able to sleep better at night because the headaches have subsided, according to a team source.