To the surprise of no one, the NHL canceled an additional 53 games on Friday - all contests scheduled through Nov. 1, totaling 135 - as yet another casualty of its ongoing labor dispute with the NHL Players' Association.
More important for the players, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr finally secured the exact calculation for returns on player escrow accounts from last season - money that may decrease urgency for his union to cut a deal.
"Given the bargaining situation in which we find ourselves," Fehr said in a memo to players leaked to USA Today, "it remains very important to conserve your financial resources."
Any player who skated in an NHL game last season will receive a refund check before Oct. 30 for 7.98 percent of his own money that was socked away to ensure a proper revenue share with the league. That's $79,800 in a return check for every $1 million earned last season.
"It's like Christmas," Scott Hartnell said, explaining the feeling to the Daily News before receiving last year's refund. "It's money you thought was lost. It's almost like receiving another week's paycheck. It's a great feeling."
The timing of the release is both normal - as in, the same it has been over the past 7 years of the collective bargaining agreement - and critical. Funds will be released to teams on Oct. 23 and must be distributed to players before Oct. 30.
Players were supposed to receive their first of 13 twice-monthly paychecks for the season on Oct. 15. The second one was slated to arrive on Oct. 30.
For younger, minimum-salaried players who may be more reliant on paychecks than veterans who have stockpiled and prepared for this lockout, the return of escrow funds will float them for a while. It is also a huge payment for those players not already skating in Europe, earning a wage in the AHL, or those who have lived beyond their means.
Injured players such as Chris Pronger (concussionlike symptoms), Andrej Meszaros (Achilles' tendon) and Andreas Lilja (hip) are not part of the lockout and will continue to receive their full salary until being cleared by a doctor.
Escrow has been a religious topic for players in this current CBA negotiations. They want all contracts signed to be honored in full, even though that wasn't the case in all of the last seven seasons.
Players had 8.5 percent of their salary set aside last season; the lowest precautionary take of the last CBA. According to the New York Post, players lost an average of 3.2 percent of their salary over the 7 years. Twice (in 2005-06 and 2007-08), they received their entire escrow check back and an additional percentage of the surplus revenue.
"You'd always rather have them overshoot [the estimation]," Hartnell said on Oct. 12, 2011. "At the end of the year, I don't think 750 players would like to cut a check from their own personal bank accounts to pay the owners for the difference."