NHL, players reportedly punt on financial feud & focus on Jan. 13 start date — but many hurdles remain before season can begin

(Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Time to breathe a little easier.

An NHL nuclear winter brought upon by yet another fiscal stalemate between the league, owners and NHLPA reportedly won't morph from night terror to tangible reality for hockey fans in 2021.

According to TSN's Darren Dreger and Pierre LeBrun, both the NHL and NHLPA have put a halt to any financial discussions regarding the six-year CBA that was negotiated and struck this past summer – with all parties involved opting to punt on the most daunting impediment standing in the way of an augmented, COVID-impacted 2021 NHL season.

The NHL's long-standing plans to open a new campaign on Jan. 1 fell to the wayside after negotiations between the league and players became mired in contentious monetary squabbling, with the owners — apparently only recently grasping the full scope of economic turmoil awaiting their clubs this year — reportedly asking for additional financial concessions from the players in order to alleviate some of the pain brought upon by dried-up revenue streams in the coming months.

To the shock of very few, the NHLPA was not receptive to such demands — given that the players believed the financial damages brought upon by the ongoing pandemic were already mapped out back in July when the current CBA extension was signed. Given that pretty much every club was going to be hurting in 2020-21 due to the likelihood of playing in front of little to no fans through the winter, the players agreed to a 20 percent escrow cap and deferred 10 percent of their salary in order to assuage some of their club's fiscal fears.

So when the NHL and the owners reportedly asked for an additional 16 percent salary deferral and another 5 percent added to the escrow cap on top of the already agreed-upon parameters of the 10/20 cut mentioned above, negotiations bogged down — with both sides waiting for the other to blink first when it came to tweaking a CBA that was approved just a few months ago.

Based on Dreger and LeBrun's reports, it would appear as though the NHLPA has won the staring contest (at least in the short term), with the league opting to walk away from these contentious CBA talks and instead focus on the countless other facets and details that must be hammered out if this new season has any hopes of getting off the ground.

For now, both the league and players are reportedly targeting a Jan. 13 start date for the new season — with 56 games planned in the shortened campaign. 

According to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, the current proposed plan would have the Bruins and every other playoff team from the Toronto and Edmonton "bubbles" reporting to training camp on Jan. 1, while the seven teams that didn't make the postseason (Sabres, Devils, Ducks, Kings, Sharks, Senators, Red Wings) will report a few days earlier on Dec. 28. There likely won't be any exhibition games on the preseason docket, with plenty of intrasquad scrimmages prescribed as the best way to shake the rust off during camp.

Given that the top potential catalyst in a season-scrubbing shutdown ($$$$, as it always is) has now been tossed to the wayside (for now), these recent developments should alleviate some fans' worst fears about hockey in 2021, with the league now focusing on ironing out other crucial matters such as safety protocols, travel, realignment and more.

Still, even if many might now be circling that Jan. 13 in anticipation of Bruins hockey returning to your TV screens, phones and laptops, there are still plenty of roadblocks standing in the way before the NHLPA Executive Board and Board of Governors sign off on the framework of a new season.