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Oh good, now pensions are an issue in CBA negotiations

Dec 6, 2012, 1:49 PM EDT

Gary Bettman; Bill Daly AP

Throw another contentious issue on the pile that already includes maximum contract lengths and the length of a new CBA between the NHL and NHLPA.

Yahoo!’s Nick Cotsonikas reports that owners were incensed Wednesday after the union became fixated on pensions. According to the NHL, it was yet another example of the players’ priorities acting as a “moving target.”

Now, to be fair, it sounds like there was good reason for the players to turn their attention to the matter of pensions – yesterday, the owners tied it to the “make-whole” provision the two sides have been fighting over.

From the CBC’s Elliotte Friedman:

With “make-whole,” there were reports last night (one of them mine) that the NHL upped its offer from $211 million to $300 million. That’s closer to the NHLPA’s last known request of $393 million. But later, there was a catch — that $50 million of it would be for pension funding. That’s a tricky one and sure to annoy the players.

Due to differing pension laws in the United States and Canada, players based in the U.S. can receive approximately $20,000 more per year in tax-free contributions from their clubs. It’s a nice little selling point for the American squads because if you play north of the 49th, you lose a good chunk of that difference to taxes. Not every player is a multi-millionaire, so that future protection really means something.

Big picture, this is the same argument the two sides have been having with regards to “honoring” current contracts that will be affected when the players’ share of hockey-related revenue is cut from 57 percent to 50. The NHL wants to make up the difference later, the players want it sooner. They’ve inched closer this week, but they’re not there yet.

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