On Monday afternoon, the NHLPA presented the NHL with what Gary Bettman described as a "comprehensive proposal." After gleaning the basics from Fehr and company for a few hours, the league said it would give the proposal a good going over throughout the night and hopefully reconvene with the PA the following afternoon.
The NHLPA proposal comes hot on the heels of a new offer tabled by the league late last week. The NHL's monster 288 page proposal had a few new twists in it in an effort to make it more palatable to the players, including a change to "the hill we will die on."
The sides actually seem to be getting down to some real negotiating now. It seems we saw a positive sign last night when the NHL didn't immediately reject the offer and walk away from the table like they have done in the past. In a brief street-side press conference after the NHLPA brass left the NHL's office, Bettman looked very relaxed and completely at ease with the reporters shoving smart phones in his face. That's something we haven't seen recently either. Another sign of positivity or Gary simply enjoying the festive New Year's Eve atmosphere?
Rumors abound that if a deal can be agreed to in the next few days, the NHL could not only shoehorn in a 48 game season, it might actually be able to go as high as 52 games. A longer season means a bigger pot for the players to get paid from. Good incentive for this to get wrapped up now instead of later. I think the league should really make an effort to have at least a 50 game season (don't deny Stamkos a shot at 50 in 50!) even if a new deal isn't struck until the last possible second. Why not give us fans a nice, round number with some historical significance?
Very little has leaked out about the NHLPA's new counterproposal so I would hold off on anyone getting their hopes up of this getting worked out in the next couple of days. It has been reported on twitter (for what that's worth) that the players didn't come up with anything radical or even new in their counter and that the document's tone is very similar to what the NHL presented a few days ago, but that there is still some divide between the two sides on key issues.
Personally, I think the sides are indeed very close and that a deal will get done to save the season soon but that it is probably going to take another week or so, not two or three days. Hopefully, I am wrong about that but my feeling is we will see one last counter from the NHL which will get tweaked by the union, tweaked again by the league and then put to a vote.
I think we are almost there and even if we are not, the NHL seems to be sticking to it's statement that January 11th is the last day to get a deal done. So, one way or another, we should know the final outcome by then.
Cross your fingers folks and have a Happy New Year! All the best in 2013!