Artemi Panarin speaks out on escrow, return to play

Artemi Panarin has voiced his opinion on escrow and the NHL’s return to plan plans. It isn’t pretty.

It’s clear that Panarin wants to play. It’s also clear that he, like many others, has concerns about COVID-19 and the precautions being set up by the NHL. Remember that New York is currently the only state that is seeing a reduction of cases. While he voices a concern, that is not his main concern.

It’s with escrow that Artemi Panarin has a major issue. Escrow ensures a 50/50 split on hockey related revenue (HRR) by taking a percentage of salary out of each player’s paycheck into an escrow account. That money is held until true revenues for the season are determined, then used to square up the owners and the players. The rest is then returned to the players. It isn’t a fun process. In fact, it’s rare that the players ever get 100% of their gross salaries.

The players do need to accept blame for their poorly negotiated CBA. That piece is on them. However the owners did negotiate in bad faith. Expansion revenue is not considered hockey related revenue (HRR). After the Seattle expansion news, that’s $1.15 billion that the players didn’t get a chunk of.

That is poorly negotiated by the players, but shady by the owners. Sports leagues thrive on a solid working relationship. The NHL is the only league to lose a full season, and has lost two over the past 25 years through three lockouts. The relationship needs repairing. This isn’t the way to do it.

Panarin isn’t alone in his thoughts about escrow. Ryan Kesler is one of many who agrees with Panarin.

Now Kesler’s understanding of escrow is a little misguided, but the sentiment is there. The players are obviously fed up with escrow and having money taken out of their pockets. There is no clear path to resolution, given that Panarin has called for players not to report to camp for the playoffs until this is resolved. That is also unlikely to happen.

Panarin’s concern probably isn’t going to impact the NHL’s return to play this season. It likely won’t impact next season either. However something like this could derail any further CBA negotiations. The current CBA expires after the 2021 season.