NHL Lockout 2012: Is there finally some real optimism around the NHL CBA negotiations?

The two sides met deep into the night on Saturday, which is a good sign. But how much progress did they really make? Some reports say quite a bit, actually.

Generally talks between the NHL and the NHLPA have been received with tons of optimism from the fans. Mostly the optimism has been born from the fans wanting to be optimistic rather than there actually being traction between the two sides. But Saturday's meetings might have actually produced the latter.

Here's a tweet from Adrian Dater that came down after the meetings:

Miracle alert: I'm told by usually skeptical people that some real progress was actually made late last night in NHL lockout talks

For what it's worth, Dater has been one of the "in the know" reporters during this process, and has been quick to shoot down some of the false optimism that has surfaced when the owners have made their moves. It seems to me that Dater is very well connected with the player's side of things, so to see this tweet is definite a good thing.

Now, for full disclosure, he also tweeted this on Sunday:

Still got to get down to "nitty gritty" though

But that's to be expected at this stage in the process. Anyone expecting a new CBA signed last night was always going to be seriously disappointed.

Still, there are major reasons to be optimistic. The fact of the matter is, neither side has actually sat down and negotiated during this entire process. Until Saturday night, neither side had actually sat down and talked face-to-face for more than two hours. It's very safe to assume the two sides bridged at least some gaps over the weekend, otherwise they would have done their typical two-hour meeting before breaking up with no progress made.

Believe it or not (and you should believe it since many smarter people than me have said it) the sides meeting without the presence of the media -- along with ending the meeting without reporting to the media -- are great signs as well. It means the two sides are no longer fighting the public relations war.

Since the talks on Saturday the NHLPA had a conference call on Sunday, and scheduled another for Monday at Noon. That can be looked at in two different lights, but even the most negative people out there can safely assume that Steve Fehr and Bill Daly gave each other enough to think about that they were even meeting so late in the first place.

Remember, these meetings came after the owners announced that they would be willing to absorb some of the cost (how much has yet to be revealed) behind the "make whole" provision, which protects current player's contracts from being cut back.

It's going to be a big week, especially since the two sides expect to meet again "early" this week. How big has yet to be seen.

But for the first time in this process, there might actually be some real traction between the two sides.