For over three months we’ve heard about the numerous NHL players that packed their bags and took their game to Europe in an attempt to stay in game shape while the lockout dragged on back in North America. But now, slowly, one by one those same players are re-packing their bags and heading back to their respective team’s cities, signalling that a new CBA could be merely days away.
After a five-hour meeting on Wednesday that saw the NHL and NHLPA continue negotiations while presenting counter-proposals, talks will resume on Thursday. The player’s pension plan is the major sticking point in the negotiations and while both sides are admitting progress is being made, it is small and much work remains before we have NHL action back on home ice.
None the less, the players clearly know something or have been given some positive reinforcement to make some of them decide to venture home and leave the European clubs they had signed with.
Chris Nichols, a fantasy expert for Sportsnet.ca captured some of those players courtesy of CSNWashington.com. Boston Bruins forwards Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin confirmed they are leaving Switzerland to return to Boston and New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist is also set to leave his home country of Sweden.
Furthermore, Michael Russo of the Star Tribune mentions a few of the Wild players that are in town or are returning to town in preparation of a new deal being signed in the coming days. Devin Setoguchi is back in town after a brief stint with the Ontario Reign of the ECHL and Tom Gilbert, who lives in Madison is also back in the Twin Cities.
But not all players are booking their plane ticket home just yet. Russo points out that Mikko Koivu who signed with his hometown team in Finland won’t return until the lockout has completely ended. Nichols also wrote about Washington Capitals forward, Brooks Laich who remains in Switzerland and won’t be making any travel plans until he knows for certain that the NHL will return this year.
With a deadline of January 11th on the table from the league to save the season or become the first professional sports league to lose two entire seasons due to a work stoppage, you’d think that the players that are returning would want a little more clarity that a deal is close. There again, we aren’t privileged to that information and have to go on solely what’s reported from the main stream media.
Speculation can be scary but it’s easy to look at the facts and think that a deal is imminent. The two sides are talking and are reportedly making progress. The players are returning home. Will we be watching the NHL in the coming weeks? It definitely looks promising right now.