NHL agent Walsh: Escrow is players’ primary issue with CBA

NHLPA-executive-director-Donald-Fehr-stands-with-players-following-collective-bargaining-talks

NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr, left, addresses journalists as he stands in front of players, including Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Eric Staal, following collective bargaining talks in Toronto back in 2012. (Chris Young/CP)

The NHL and the NHL Players’ Association don’t always see eye to eye. The two sides did come to an agreement on multi-year exclusive trading card licenses Thursday with The Upper Deck Company. That’s positive. Collective bargaining agreement negotiations on the other hand? They might not go quite as smoothly.

Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reported this past weekend that the NHL and NHLPA were slated to meet in Las Vegas at some point this week for some CBA talks. Both the league and NHLPA have the option to opt out of the current CBA in September, and famed NHL player agent Allan Walsh was a guest on Prime Time Sports Thursday to discuss what he perceives to be potentially the biggest stumbling block.

“I think the primary issue for players is escrow and finding a way to ease the burden,” Walsh told Bob McCown and John Shannon. “Players right now are seeing 13.5 per cent of their paycheques withheld, and that’s off the top. And then players who are also playing in Canadian markets are in the 50 per cent-plus in some places tax bracket, so imagine 63.5 per cent to 68 per cent of your paycheque gone. That’s the biggest issue. …

“I’m not going to get into the weeds on what the players could give up or should give up, but clearly any new deal going forward has to in some way address the escrow burden on players.”

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Participation in the 2022 Olympics could be another point of contention in negotiations, but Walsh focused on the topic of escrow during the interview.

Walsh continued: “You’d be pretty angry if in addition to the taxes that you pay, they took another 13.5 per cent off the top. So, a player’s contract will say a million dollars but it’s not really a million dollars. And that is something that the players have been paying into escrow and they’ve had their paycheques withheld since 2005 and it’s something that needs to be addressed.

“There are formulas out there with some degree of flexibility that can, I think, fairly easily alleviate the escrow burden. If players are paying five to six per cent a year in escrow I don’t think they’re gonna be happy about it but that’s a number I think they can live with. When you start talking about 13.5 per cent – and under this CBA it’s been as high as 20 per cent – that’s something that doesn’t work.”

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters in Seattle Wednesday that he isn’t in favour of having a difficult negotiation and is hopeful the two sides can “extend and renew with minimal fanfare.”

Bettman added: “We’ll see what happens but I’m not looking for a fight.”

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