The NHL and NHLPA are busy hammering out the complicated layers to the Phase 3 and Phase 4 Return to Play agreement, all while at the same time negotiating a CBA extension.
According to Pierre LeBrun, the CBA extension, or at least the Memo of Understanding, has become so intertwined with Return to Play that one source suggested Thursday it’s probably all going to be presented as one package to the players at some point before the end of the month.
Elliott Friedman thinks the next 14 days will be big. “I think we’re going to learn a lot over the next two weeks. The NHL and NHLPA continue grinding away towards an agreement on safety protocol for Phase III (training camp) and Phase IV (games), in addition to the CBA. With camps scheduled for July 10, the players’ vote on this is targeted for the end of June. I don’t know if there will be two separate decisions (one for protocols and one for CBA) or one big, all-encompassing ballot, but it’s expected each player will get an individual vote. So we’re going to get the answers to Kevin’s questions.”
According to Friedman’s sources, the NHLPA has named its 12 negotiation committee members: Justin Abdelkader(Detroit); Ian Cole (Colorado); JT Compher (Colorado); Andrew Copp (Winnipeg); Lars Eller (Washington); Justin Faulk (St. Louis); Nick Foligno (Columbus); Ron Hainsey (Ottawa); Zach Hyman (Toronto); Anders Lee (Islanders); Darnell Nurse (Edmonton) and Yannick Weber (Nashville). Any other player who wishes to participate in these conversations can do so.
However, according to LeBrun, there is a group of players, though seemingly smaller in size yet not insignificant, who are vocal about their reluctance to come back and play and until they get more firm answers to their questions they may not change their mind. More and more, there are players who feel they won’t commit to playing until they know what the economic landscape (escrow) will look like over the next couple of years.
Additionally, The NHL and NHLPA are working on opt-out language for anyone who may feel uncomfortable about playing. But part of their pitch might be that the bubble will be safer than parts of North America. In some places, it looks like social distancing no longer exists. Also, the NHL will now handle announcements of any positive COVID-19 tests. Previously, the teams handled that.
TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie was a guest on OverDrive to discuss a group of players who have concerns regardless of what the NHL’s Phase 3 or 4 plans look like and discuss how the NHL and NHLPA are in crunch time to agree to Phase 3, 4 and the CBA.
A new CBA would allow both the League and the Players Association an opportunity to restructure financially, and provide a mechanism for dealing with potential losses accrued from the suspended play due to the COVID-19 virus.
The current collective bargaining agreement runs ten years, expiring on September 15, 2022. The current Agreement was ratified by NHLPA membership on January 12, 2013, concluding a four-month lockout by NHL owners.
By Jon Sorensen