The NHL is continuing to review the NHL Players' Association's collective bargaining agreement offer and face-to-face negotiations began again approximately 9 p.m. Tuesday.
After weeks of inactivity and little communication, the NHL made a surprising offer last Thursday. NHLPA executive director Don Fehr made a counter-proposal on Monday. Unlike previous reactions from Fehr proposals, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman did not act angrily but rather said that he would review the fine points of the offer before speaking with Fehr on Tuesday.
I'm optimistic, Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. Obviously you're always a bit reserved. We have been burned a few times before. Right now, both sides understand how important it is to get a deal done.
Bettman said that, if a season is to take place, it must begin by Jan. 19. For that to reasonably happen, an agreement must be in place by Jan. 11.
Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik is hopeful for a season but cautioned that Bettman's cordial response to Fehr's offer isn't an indication that a deal is necessarily imminent.
At this point, Orpik said, any time you try to get reads off body language or rhetoric from both sides, I think it's really tough to pinpoint exactly when they're being genuine and when they're not.
Still, there are signs that the players sense growing optimism that training camp could be right around the corner. For the first time since players began skating informally at Southpointe in September, they will be working out all five days this week.
Usually, they are off on Wednesdays.
Now we finally have an end date, Orpik said. There have been points when it's tough to get motivated and you question why you're working out. Everyone has the 11th or 12th circled as an end date. We've been patient. We might as well be patient for 10 more days and be ready.
Orpik and Lovejoy were joined by captain Sidney Crosby, winger Pascal Dupuis, center Joe Vitale and defenseman Deryk Engelland at Southpointe on Tuesday. A larger contingent of players is expected for workouts on Wednesday.
The players remain satisfied with the communication they've received from Fehr regarding the NHLPA's latest offer.
They've given us very detailed reports, Orpik said. We've heard that the other side (owners), a lot of teams are in the dark with what's going on. But we've been getting updates and emails. When you're at the meetings, you have a better idea of what's going on. But we've been happy with all the information we've received.
Orpik acknowledged that body language can be deceiving.
But like the rest of the hockey world, he'll be paying attention when - presumably tonight - Bettman and Fehr publicly update that status of the negotiations.
Just seeing the reaction today, Orpik said, is going to be pretty telling.