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Rangers forward Artemi Panarin wants change to NHL's escrow system before restart

Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin looks on against

Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin looks on against the St. Louis Blues in the first period of an NHL hockey game at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Two weeks before the NHL is scheduled to begin Phase 3 of its return to play plan, with the opening of training camps on July 10, Rangers forward Artemi Panarin said Thursday that players should not report to their teams for camp until the league revamps the escrow system that withholds a percentage of players’ salaries until final revenues for the season are tabulated.

“For nearly two decades, the players have protected the owners income with escrow, including during this pandemic crisis, even as the owners’ equity continues to grow exponentially,’’ said Panarin’s statement, posted on his Instagram and Twitter accounts. “It is time to fix the escrow. We as players cannot report to camp to resume play without already having an agreement in place.’’

Under the current CBA, the players and owners are entitled to a 50-50 split of hockey related revenue, and the league’s salary cap is based on projections of what that total number is expected to be, using the previous season’s numbers as a guide. A percentage of the players’ salaries are held in escrow until the final numbers are tabulated, and if it turns out the players received more than 50 percent of the revenues, then the owners use the escrow monies they’ve collected to even out the split. If the owners’ share was 50 percent, then the escrow monies are returned to the players. Escrow was set up this year at 14 percent of the players’ salaries.

With the coronavirus pandemic forcing the NHL to halt its season on March 12, the league’s revenues will take a severe hit, so figuring out the salary cap and escrow for 2020-21 has been complicated, as the league and the players union continues to work on putting together health and safety protocols while simultaneously trying to negotiate an extension to the current CBA. There has been much speculation about just how much of players’ salaries would have to be held in escrow next season.

Panarin, who signed a seven-year, $81.5 million free agent deal to join the Rangers last summer, has been part of the group of players who has been working out and skating in voluntary in small group training sessions at the team’s Greenburgh, New York, practice facility.

In addition to advocating for an overhaul of the escrow system, Panarin sounded as if he wasn’t thrilled with the NHL’s hub city concept.

“Also, I know the process for selection of the Hub Cities is ongoing,’’ his statement read. “I sincerely wish that my teammates and I could train and play games at MSG and bring employment and economic opportunity safely back to New York City for Ranger fans and all New Yorkers.’’

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