Insider: Just Keep Talking

Any talking is a good thing.

That should be the only thing to take from the NHL and NHLPA talks as the marathon sessions continue Friday. With both sides sitting across the table from each other for the better part of a week, the hope is that there will be progress on some of the issues that have gotten us to this point in the lockout.

The NHLPA reportedly made two offers to the NHL on Wednesday, which the league responded to today in an undisclosed way. With very little being known about the status of these talks, the only positive one look for is that the two sides agree to return to the table, which is the case as they will get back to negotiating Friday.

“Collective bargaining is a process,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told the assembled media in New York Thursday evening. “It has peaks and valleys and ebbs and flows and it is very tough to handicap.”

One industry source suggested to last week that they were still holding out hope that a season would still be played, even though more people in and around the game were starting to buy into the idea that there may not be a season at all. It remains to be seen how much the events of the past few days have changed that line of thinking, if at all.

With the dream of a full 82 game season now a distant memory, the sooner a deal gets done, the better, and while every day that goes by without hockey is a tough reminder of where we are at, there is likely still some time before the drop dead date is reached in terms of seeing NHL hockey played this season.

The biggest issue among many separating the two sides at this point is likely how to make the players current contracts whole. In other words, how do you pay the players what they are owed in their current contracts and still split hockey-related revenue at or around 50-50? Once they get that figured out, a lot of the other issues will hopefully start to fall into place.

At the end of the day, it is tough to handicap where we are in the process, if anything has been agreed to, and if there is reason for hope, and that is not a terrible thing. One of the first rules of contract negotiations is that you always get the most accomplished when you stop negotiating in the media, which is exactly what finally appears to be happening here.

Just keep talking.