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NHL, NHLPA agree on 9.5 per cent in escrow payments for first quarter @NHL

TORONTO - Player paycheques will be 9.5 per cent smaller during the first quarter of the 2007-08 NHL season, but that money could find its way back later on depending on the league's bottom line.

The money withheld goes to a fund established under the new collective bargaining agreement to ensure owners don't give up more in player salaries than their allotted share of revenues.

The NHL and NHL Players' Association signed off on the 9.5 per cent number for the first quarter of the season on Tuesday, sources told The Canadian Press, and will monitor revenues throughout the season to see if it needs to be adjusted.

Last season players had 10 per cent of their paycheques held back but the final calculations saw players only pay out 2.76 per cent to the league with the rest reimbursed. In the end, once interest was factored in, the players earned 97.51 per cent of their 2006-07 salaries and bonuses.

In 2005-06, the first year of the CBA, the owners were the ones that got dinged - having to pay players back 4.37 per cent.

The final tally for this season will be figured out next fall.

A percentage of player salaries is held back because it's impossible to predict league revenues and total player compensation in advance.

The salary cap continues to go up, with the players' going up to 55.6 per cent last season from 54 per cent of revenues in 2005-06.

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