The NHL stands down on CBA opt-out, and a Wild opening night roster!

Marc Elliott

Matt Dumba looks to have a big year  for the Wild in return from injury
Matt Dumba looks to have a big year for the Wild in return from injury

SCANLON… The National Hockey League announced prior to the American holiday weekend that it will not opt-out of the current CBA deal with the NHLPA and that has sparked some optimism that the league and the players union are making progress toward an extension of the current CBA, one that would likely carry through to the conclusion of the 2024-2025 season. This obviously would be welcome to all involved. I can’t fathom of one group within this that has the stomach for another lockout, or “work stoppage” as Commissioner Gary Bettman likes to call them. That’s fine by me. Make no mistake though, there are still some issues to be worked upon, the players escrow obligations being at the top of that list. 

I had thought about it prior to the weekend and concluded that this would be the leagues path. They (the owner’s group) have a pretty good deal in place, there wasn’t any major reason for them to opt-out and kickoff the cycle of ill will and bitterness again via a lockout. On the other hand, they surely recognized that the players are the ones that have a gripe, and in their eyes a substantial one at that. As part of the current CBA the revenues are split 50-50 and the players pay “escrow” from their salaries as a guarantee on that split. When there is an overage it gets remunerated back to the players. The players complain that the escrow payments can be as high as 12-14% of their salaries. 

The revenues are determined by what is “HRR” or hockey related revenues. This is where it gets a bit dicey and its somewhat of a complicated list of what is HRR and what isn’t. Over the summer there were reports out that the escrow matter was going to be the players line in the sand, and many were going to push for the NHLPA to opt-out when their date to do so arrives on September 15th. At this point it sounds like the negotiations have included ways to reduce the escrow as opposed to eliminating it altogether via reviewing the list of HRR and what counts towards the 50-50 split. With new revenue streams about to come online through legalized sports betting, live streaming opportunities, and a new US television deal around the corner, perhaps this is the way to go. 

I myself was having a hard time fashioning a way to eliminate the escrow altogether. With new money on the horizon, if the league is willing to look at ways to reduce the escrow payments through these, we just might have a win-win for both parties. This would be most welcome and if this does come about, I think both parties in the negotiations will be due some hearty congratulations. Cooler heads will have prevailed. The league has not only survived the prior two lockouts that got us up to this point in time, it has thrived and has never been more financially successful. I’m not certain that could be the case if a third acrimonious lockout of labor came about. How many times can you go to that well? Bettman has proven to be a master labor tactician but at what point do some fans of the league state that they have had enough? Perhaps those involved have arrived at that conclusion and want to avoid that. I’ll hope that that will be the case here. Can’t wait for another season to kickoff…

WHEN YOU OPEN this edition of The Reader, NHL Rookie and Prospect camps will have commenced around the NHL. It’s a time of hope and renewal and every club in the league gets a fresh start. The Minnesota Wild will be one of the teams that will welcome that in a huge way. We are painfully aware of what the prior 15 months have brought to the State of Hockey and have a cautious optimism heading into training camp. There isn’t much use of any review of the previous season or even the brief, misguided tenure of former GM Paul Fenton, that’s been done. Club owner Craig Leipold whiffed on that hire, took responsibility and has potentially righted that ship by hiring Bill Guerin to take his place. He is the person I had hoped would be brought on board and here we are. Thus far he isn’t making any crazy promises and his line has been that he is going to examine all things Wild and will fix things that need fixing and improve things that need that as he can do so. 

The timing of the GM change isn’t optimal for much change at this point anyway and with the season looming large, signing remaining RFA’s and prepping for the year are about all he can do. He promises to get his way of doing things in place quickly and will assess all personnel on and off ice and has made no promises to anyone other then to make this club as good as he possibly can. With that said, opening night is a mere 28 days away. The club will open on the road versus Nashville. What will the opening night roster look like this year?

The roster this year will mostly look like the roster from last year. There will be a couple of slight changes, but to kick things off, status quo will be apparent. Kevin Fiala is still an unsigned RFA, but I presume a deal will get done. D-man 

and RFA Louie Belpedio is without contract but is in the non-roster category. Matt Dumba and Mikko Koivu return from season ending injuries, and newcomers Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Hartman join the mix. My overall thoughts are that a fourth of the team are aging and beyond their peak. The bottom fourth need experience and aren’t quite ready to take over the team, and the middle half is a mixed bag. Netminder Devan Dubnyk has put up some very good numbers in his Wild tenure, but when they have made the playoffs, that hasn’t translated. Backup Alex Stalock is capable of some strong supporting performances but needs the team to play very well in front of him to do that.

My 23-man Wild Roster; on Left Wing, Zucker, Greenway, Parise, Foligno. At Center, Staal, Koivu, Eriksson Ek, Rask. At Right Wing, Zuccarello, Fiala, Donato, Hartman. Rask and Kunin will be your two floater forwards, and Kunin can play wing if needed. On Defense, Suter, Spurgeon, Dumba, Brodin, Pateryn, and Seeler. Hunt will be your 7 spot D. Dubnyk and Stalock round out the 23-man. Victor Rau was rather unimpressive last year after being traded here, and I put him on the 23 man mainly due to his contract. Fiala was in the same boat with him, 7 points in 19 Wild games and Coach Boudreau isn’t a big fan. If they falter, I see Sturm and Sokolov as first call-ups. Traverse City Rookie-Prospect Tourney Friday through Tuesday!! PEACE