Hockey Insiders Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger and Senior Hockey Reporter Frank Seravalli discuss how some NHL players are considering foregoing their final cheque of the season, have the latest on the separation between the Jets and Dustin Byfuglien nearing an end, which OHL team could take a chance on No. 1 prospect Adam Fantilli, and much more.
What are the players doing to deal with the massive impact on the game due to the coronavirus?
Frank Seravalli: One of the options that’s on the table is to forgo their final paycheque of the season that would be coming on April 15. That’s the discussion that’s ongoing at the player and team level. The player reps have taken it back to their individual teams to canvas and find out exactly what they want to do. They could take all of this remaining paycheque and put it toward the escrow fund, they can take some of it or they can take none at all. What we’re taking about is $140 million in gross pay in this last paycheque and essentially what that would do is to take the escrow withholding for this season from 14 per cent and bump it up to 16.5 or 17 per cent as the total take for the season and if the NHL doesn’t come back and we were looking at a 35 per cent escrow, anymore you can pile on would certainly help in terms of paying that back to the NHL’s owners. The clock is ticking though because this decision is due on April 7 to decide what to do for that final paycheque.
What the latest on Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien?
Darren Dreger: It is nearing an end, but obviously given current events it's not top priority for all involved. What I know is that the National Hockey League is scheduled to discuss the situation with the Winnipeg Jets in the very near future. Now, the Players' Association, the league, the player and the Winnipeg Jets are all aligned in the termination agreement, but it hasn't been executed yet and because of that the Winnipeg Jets aren't in a position to announce. The detail work between the league and Winnipeg Jets is expected to ironed out in the near future.
What are some under the radar things that have [been] lost due to the suspension of the NHL season?
Bob McKenzie: Getting a team picture is not high on the priority list for these franchises that are in limbo right now because of the coronavirus, but it is interesting to hear the Columbus Blue Jackets on the last day they were together, March 11, they had that scheduled as their day to take the team picture. So the Columbus Blue Jackets got their team picture taken which got me thinking, what about some of the other teams in the National Hockey League? So, I did a quick canvas of the seven Canadian teams and found out the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Winnipeg Jets, right after the trade deadline took their team photo. The Montreal Canadiens got their [photo] done of March 9, but the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Ottawa Senators have not taken a team photo. And if the players don't come back together for any hockey in 2019-20, the teams are effectively without that commemorative team photo. But they could do what the Buffalo Sabres are planning on doing and that is when they get their team together for the fall, they would take a team picture, photoshop out the new guys that weren't on the team in 19-20 and photoshop back in the guys that were on the 19-20 team. A small matter, but one nevertheless the teams are looking at.
Does Adam Fantilli still get selected No. 1 in this weekend's OHL Draft despite committing to playing in the USHL next season?
McKenzie: Well, it's a fascinating discussion that not only the North Bay Battalion, but other teams in the OHL, are having. Now North Bay does have the No. 1 overall pick in the OHL Draft and they have made a decision on what they're going to do. But they have not made that decision public yet on whether they're going to take Fantilli, who is the clear, and I mean clear cut, No. 1 prospect in this year's Draft, but he has already announced he's going to Chicago of the USHL. He's going to defer his decision on the Ontario Hockey League until a year from now. Rumours are rampant in the OHL leading up to Saturday's draft that North Bay in fact is going to take somebody other than Fantilli. We'll see if that comes to pass. Then it's up to every OHL team, including North Bay, I guess, to decide on that. Do they roll the dice and hope that a year from now Adam Fantilli comes into the OHL and spends two years there before being maybe the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft or do they pass on him, realizing that he could spend the next two years with Chicago in the USHL and then go off to college hockey. Fascinating. We find out on Saturday who rolls the dice.
Health care for the NHL Alumni Association, the NHL and the NHLPA
Dreger: It could be more about opportunity from an NHL Alumni Association perspective. When you look at health care for retired players, especially in the United States, it is ridiculously expensive. Upwards of $36,000 per year for ex-players and their families. Now the NHL Alumni is hoping that today's player, the current National Hockey League player, would take advantage of this because at one point in their future they are going to be the ex-player, so why not include lifetime health care now for the player and their families for again the remainder of their life in the current collective bargaining agreement. That's part of the extension whether or not it becomes a main pawn in the negotiation between the NHL and the Players' Association has yet to be seen, but the Alumni would like the current player to push it through.
What else are players doing to keep busy?
Seravalli: Some of them, believe it or not, are actually hitting the books and they're taking advantage of some of the opportunities that they have partially through the NHLPA's athlete development program where they're set up with a consultant who finds them ways to either pursue some university credits or perhaps go out and obtain a certificate. I was talking to Michael Del Zotto of the Anaheim Ducks, he's a guy that really taking up that opportunity. He said he's learning Italian, he's taking a marketing class online at the moment to help with brand identity and strategy. So, he's hoping to complete that at some point during this pause and they're hoping some other NHL players also choose to step up in this time period as well to use their time wisely to help set themselves up potentially for life after hockey whenever that comes.