Insider Trading: What main issues will NHLPA's Marty Walsh tackle first?
With the NHLPA's new executive director Marty Walsh taking control, TSN Hockey Insiders Pierre LeBrun, and Chris Johnston discuss some of the biggest issues the players are concerned about including the playoff format, a best-on-best international tournament, the salary cap and more.
With the Players’ Association rolling out their new executive director, it brought up a number of key issues. Pierre, you spoke with Marty Walsh, what does he see as the priority right now?
Pierre LeBrun: Well, there is certainly more than one, but certainly I think his desire is to have greater player engagement on CBA issues and issues between CBAs, if you know what I mean. Traditionally, players have really only cared about these issues whenever it’s time to renegotiate a CBA and I think what the PA wants under Marty Walsh is greater player participation in between those events and as a specific example, since Marty Walsh has taken over, the NHLPA has started discussing the playoff format with players across the league. They’re early in these discussions, but the point is they want to know from players, do you like the playoff format? Do you want to change it? If so, what do you want it to look like? Who knows if they’ll find consensus, but it’s an example of wanting player engagement on different issues and it’s an interesting one.
Walsh also took time to share some interesting news that could impact the salary cap.
Chris Johnston: Absolutely, I mean it was only a couple of weeks ago that we were in Florida at the GMs meeting, Gary Bettman indicated a willingness to negotiate with the new NHLPA leadership on potentially seeing next year’s cap go up by more than $1 million. But what I’ll tell you right now is, don’t wait too long for that negotiation to happen because I don’t expect there to be much grounds for it to happen because Marty Walsh didn’t really get into a lot of specifics in his first press conference, but he was pretty clear that he did not want to see any change to the escrow. That was a big win for the players in the last round of negotiations and that was what the league was seeking to see the cap go up by more than $1 million. I think the players at this point are comfortable just with that small bump for next year, with the knowledge that the year beyond that it’s going to go up a lot more once their debt to the owners is repaid from the pandemic.
In a related story, it’s hard to talk about the cap and escrow without bringing up hockey-related revenue and that can’t help but bring into question the situation with the Coyotes right now, Pierre.
LeBrun: As CJ noted, there were a bunch of topics that Marty Walsh wanted to be careful on because he has to sort of read more on them himself, this was not one of them. I had a chance to speak with Marty Walsh sort of to the side after his news conference and I asked him about the Coyotes situation and he said, “These are National Hockey League players playing in a college stadium, that has got to be addressed.” So he was pretty firm about his concern right out of the gate about what is happening in Arizona and yes he referred to the fact that there is a vote coming in May and that’s a vote from citizens of Tempe, Arizona to go ahead or not with the plan by the Coyotes to build a new arena in Tempe in three to four years. It’s one the few examples I would say early on of an item that has certainly grabbed the attention of Marty Walsh.
As the former [U.S.) Secretary of Labor, Walsh certainly understands politics and he has a political hot potato to deal with when it comes to the World Cup right now, Chris.
Johnston: He does and I think he almost wants to leave that political stuff aside in the early going because he wants to get discussions going with the NHL in the relatively near future on potential plans for this World Cup in February 2025. We know it’s been so long since the league has been able to stage a best-on-best event, Marty Walsh knows this is a priority for a number of players in his membership and really I think his thoughts are, let’s not wait to see what happens with the Russia situation in Ukraine, let’s first plan the event and then deal with those sorts of decisions down the road. I think that is a political hot potato, because it’s going to mean that he’s going to have to have discussions with Russian members of his union and let them know that they could potentially be moving ahead without them if they have to go that route and the conflict isn’t resolved.
CJ, you’re also playing the role of Entertainment Insider today. A celebrity sighting in the nation’s capital to tell us about.
Johnston: Absolutely, there are people involved in this Senators sale that have much bigger pockets than Ryan Reynolds, but no one has a bigger star power or engagement online, so when he shows up in Ottawa as he did on this day it does make some news and get some attention. He’s there with The Remington Group, with Christopher Bratty, his partner in this bid. I think what’s interesting is that all of the remaining six bidders are going through this process right now where they are visiting the nation’s capital, they get to meet with Senators leadership, ask them questions, go to a game, but by Reynolds showing up with The Remington Group reinforces that he’s committed to that group. I do know that some of the other bidders are willing to bring Reynolds on late, if they end up emerging as the winner, but it looks like he is sticking to that Remington Group.