So after all the posturing, all the threats, all the hills that Bill Daly was going to die on; we're here. The NHL made the first move during this two-week silence and now it appears as though we're seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
But why does it feel that way? We've danced this dance before. One side has made a move, the media has portrayed it as "the move," the two sides meet and talk and then things break down in spectacular fashion. This move, however, screams: "It's time." Why? Because it appears as though the NHL is ready to make a deal.
The offer on the table moved on a few key issues, mainly making max contracts six years (instead of five) and making the year-to-year variance in contracts 10% (instead of 5%). It also appears as though the NHL is permitting the NHLPA to negotiate off the offer (when before most of the NHL's offers have been the "take it or leave it" variety).
Here's the thing: There have been rumbles from the very beginning that the NHL was working off its own timeframe. The quiet whispers have said from the get-go that when the NHL was ready to make a deal they would make a deal.
So the strategy Gary Bettman and the NHL employed was "play hardball and see if you can't get the NHLPA to take a bad deal." A strategy that might have worked if not for Donald Fehr. Earlier during this process I questioned whether or not Fehr knew what he was doing when he pushed back on the NHL's previous offer. Obviously he did. He sold his union on the fact that another deal would come. And it has.
There is still work to be, though. The deal on the table is not "the deal' -- the NHLPA is actually already putting together a counterproposal -- but it's inched the two sides even closer. How they get to where they need to go is the next phase of this negotiation, and it will be hard. Nothing about this will be easy. Nothing about these negotiations has been, anyway.
But at least we're near the end. It's about time.
I'll leave you with this from Chris Botta, because I believe it speaks volumes about this process and where we are now.
When the CBA gets done in a week or two, please do not paint anyone as a hero or savior. They all failed. Just move on, NHL.