There's no official word yet from either the NHL or the NHL Officials' Association, but it appears the two sides have come to terms on a new, five-year deal.
Ken Campbell of The Hockey Newsbroke the story of the agreement on Tuesday morning. The deal ensures that there will be no disruption of service from the league's referees and linesman.
“It’s within a dot,” a source with knowledge of the negotiations told Campbell. “There might be one small thing here or there, but it’s really details. The basis for a deal has been settled and they’re very, very close. I think both sides want to make sure all the details are done before they make anything public.”
Campbell's source praised the amicable nature of negotiations. “There has never been any talk of [a work stoppage],” the source said. “Things have been really professional on both sides.”
The agreement could be announced ahead of Wednesday night's season-opening games, but it's more likely that the sides will wait for a ratification vote before making it official.
The league employs 42 referees and 37 linesmen, and while they're often subjected to questions of competence, loyalty and lineage by fans wearing homer goggles, it's hard to argue that they are anything but some of the best in the game—just watch action from leagues elsewhere in the world for proof of how good the NHL has it.