A late-night negotiating session between Bill Daly and Steve Fehr along with expected talks early this week has allowed some optimism to creep back into CBA talk following Friday's Winter Classic cancellation.
The two sides may actually be ready to negotiate rather than present offers that are roundly rejected in short order. That's a positive.
But the fact that the Winter Classic has been postponed at least one year and it has taken until early November for talks to almost get serious means another lost season could become a reality.
The impact and consequences of another wiped out NHL season are far-reaching. There's the obvious, like the growing notion that this complete disregard for fans may leave some so turned off, they never return. And there are some not-so-obvious results from a missed season. Here's a look at some of the most significant:
• The contract status of coaches and management. Some may have lockout clauses written into their deals, but a little digging this weekend revealed that there are some interesting scenarios brewing if this lockout goes all season. In Los Angeles, GM Dean Lombardi is inexplicably a lame duck general manager in the final year of his contract and would become a GM free agent this summer without an extension in L.A. Maybe the sale of Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns the Kings, has slowed an extension, but it would seem the franchise is much more valuable to potential suitors with the architect behind the Stanley Cup champions signed long-term.
The job Lombardi has done in Los Angeles has been masterful -- from drafting and developing the Kings' core stars to gutsy trades that added players such as Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. He'd be a fascinating free agent to watch if somehow the Kings allowed that to happen.
And if you're looking for a free-agent coach? There's no one better than Dave Tippett, who is in the final year of his deal and would also be free to explore other options this offseason without a new extension. There's not a coach who has done a better job the past few seasons than Tippett's guidance of the Coyotes.
The same goes for the incredible management team of GM Don Maloney and underrated assistant GM Brad Treliving, both in the final year of their contracts. That group has performed miracles in the desert and it'd be fun to see what they could do with an actual budget. If I'm John Davidson, I'm watching all these scenarios very closely and jumping at the first chance to make any one of these guys part of his rebuilding process in Columbus.
• If, like last time, a lost season wipes out an entire season on every player's contract, it sets up interesting scenarios on the free-agent market. Some potential free agents won't be incredibly impacted -- a guy such as Alexander Edler is going to get his money either way. He'll be one of the most in-demand free agents out there if he hits the market. But there will be some tough decisions to be made, starting in Calgary.
Jarome Iginla is in the final year of his contract with the Flames. If there isn't a season, he'll have no sense of what it's like to play for new coach Bob Hartley. There are so many unanswered questions surrounding the Flames in which Iginla would just have to guess on an answer. How will Dennis Wideman and Jiri Hudler fit in? Just how good is Sven Baertschi? (An aside, but the answer is really good. Said one Calgary source: "He's unbelievable. He has everything. He's fast, he's gutsy, he's smart, he shoots, he passes. And a great kid.")
With those unknowns, is Iginla better off pursing a Stanley Cup elsewhere? And what about guys such as Alexander Semin and Jaromir Jagr, who signed one-year deals in free agency this summer? Should they give those teams another crack at them or hit the market? Do the Stars sign Derek Roy to an extension without seeing him in a Dallas uniform first? Do the Red Wings extend Ian White without knowing exactly how he'll perform without Nicklas Lidstrom? And what in the world is Mike Smith worth? The Coyotes goalie had a huge season in 2011-12, but it's just one year. Does he get a big reward? It all sets up a fascinating summer if there's no season.
• There's an assumption that wiping out an entire year will cost us the last season of at least one beloved star to retirement. You can't help but wonder how a guy such as Martin Brodeur will respond to sitting out an entire season without regular work. Or if Teemu Selanne and Daniel Alfredsson might prefer to hang up the skates rather than try to play one last season after a year off.
Teammates of those two star forwards say to hold off on any retirement talk, even if a lockout wipes out an entire year. Senators goalie Craig Anderson has been practicing with Alfredsson during the lockout and sees plenty of hockey left, regardless of when it resumes.
"I think Alfie has a lot in him still. He's still skating about once a week. He loves working out, he loves being out there," Anderson said during a recent conversation. "[The lockout] gives him a little time window here now to say, 'Am I really ready to do this 100 percent of the time or do I want to still have that hockey side?' My gut feeling is he's going to play until he can't be effective anymore."
As for Selanne, those who have been working out with him in California during the lockout see no reason for him to quit now. "I've kind of learned not to worry about Teemu anymore. That guy defies odds," said Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler. "I just know that if the puck were to drop tomorrow, he'd be one of the best players on the ice. I don't worry about him, he knows what he's doing."
Teammate Bobby Ryan agrees. "He just keeps getting better, it's scary," Ryan said. "It would be devastating for hockey in Southern California [if Selanne retired]. He's our icon. He's the guy everybody knows. You don't want to see him go out in a situation like this. I really hope we get things going."