TORONTO -- After watching negotiations go off the rails in a very public setting last week, the NHL and NHL Players' Association are heading back underground.
And they've invited some company.
The sides are to resume talks at an undisclosed location today, with U.S. federal mediators Scot L. Beckenbaugh and John Sweeney rejoining the process. Those men first met with league and union leaders Nov. 27 and 28 before deciding they couldn't help negotiations along.
The NHLPA continued to push for mediation when players and owners gathered in New York last week, and the NHL eventually agreed. However, deputy commissioner Bill Daly acknowledged Tuesday he would carry "no expectations" into the next session.
Some traction was gained in the last round of negotiations when owners and players met directly -- commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr were kept out of the room. But talks broke down in spectacular fashion shortly after Fehr met reporters last Thursday night and announced agreements had been reached on most main issues.
The NHL subsequently rejected the union's offer and pulled its own off the table.
The biggest change since the sides last met with mediators is the NHL's willingness to increase the amount of deferred make-whole payments to US$300 million -- a jump of $89 million from its previous offer. The league also dropped proposed changes to rules governing unrestricted free agency, arbitration and entry-level contracts, and the NHLPA began entertaining the introduction of term limits on deals and increasing the overall length of the CBA.
In the league's view, three main issues remain: the length of the CBA, rules governing term limits on contracts and the transition rules to help teams get under the salary cap.
There are also a handful of secondary issues, including the continued participation of NHLers in the Olympics, the international calendar and rules governing drug testing.
-- The Canadian Press