Bob Goodenow, Executive Director of the NHL Players' Association, has advised the players that he expects the lockout to last well into next year and that the players should sign contracts to play in Europe "immediately".
In part, this could be a bargaining strategy. The owners have announced that they will make one more offer in the next week to try saving what little is left of the season. Perhaps the NHLPA, by telling the players to sign in Europe, is hoping their announcement will signal the players' willingness to stay off the NHL ice for at least another year. If the NHLPA can convince the owners that playing in Europe is a credible threat, maybe the owners will make a better offer this week.
Or perhaps the NHLPA is simply being realistic.
When I went to Tradesports to see what bettors think the odds are of having any NHL games this season, here's what I found:
No matches found for "NHL"
which shows interest in the NHL is so low that there aren't even bets about when the lockout will end. This shouldn't surprise me [see here for my most recent discussion of the lockout and here for what I think the NHL has to do to increase its marketability].