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NHL returns last offer as talks with NHLPA resume

The SportsXchange

Talks between the NHL and its players union ended Wednesday night with the league putting its last offer -- which had been yanked last week -- back on the table.

This time it seems to be a take-it-or-leave-it offer, according to multiple reports.

The Wednesday meetings also marked the return of mediators from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services, who had been involved in the talks two weeks ago. No further meetings between the sides were scheduled as the mediators were working with them separately.

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.com there was no "conclusion" to the process as the league was waiting to hear from the players Wednesday night.

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr told reporters that there has been little progress since Thursday.

"There were discussions of the various issues involved and how far apart we are and where we go from here," Fehr said. "I can't tell you that any progress was made."

Free agent forward Brendan Morrison said this standoff has been worse than 2004-05, the last time a season was called off.

"I never thought the issues were as big as they were back in 04-05. Apparently, I was wrong," Morrison told FireandIce.com. "I thought the gap would be closed much quicker, but it hasn't come to fruition yet, so we have to keep working."

The talks marked the first time the sides had discussed a new collective bargaining agreement since negotiations broke down on Thursday.

On Monday, the NHL cancelled games through Dec. 30, making 527 regular-season games have been cancelled so far. Also, the league already has called off the Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, Mich., and the All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio.

Fehr thought that an agreement was reached over money but owners rejected the proposal and denied that the deal was close to being agreed on.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said the NHL put an additional $100 million -- for total of $300 million -- for "make-whole" contracts on the table along with other concessions and the players were unwilling to give.

The commissioner said the league had made concessions on five-year player contracts, a longer collective bargaining agreement and the "make whole" to help teams with long player contracts transition to the new collective bargaining agreement.

When the union returned with a counter proposal rather than a decision on the league's offer, the NHL rejected the NHLPA proposal and Bettman pulled many of its concessions the league made.

Fehr said the league balked at the union's proposal for an eight-year collective bargaining agreement with an opt-out after six years. The owners wanted a 10-year contract, with the ability to opt out after eight seasons.

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