Collective bargaining talks between the NHL and its union resumed Thursday with the sides breaking into smaller groups as the Players Association again discussed dissolving the union.
Sportsnet.ca reported the players could vote as early as Thursday night on a disclaimer of interest that would give the NHLPA the option to dissolve. The union chose not to dissolve last week when it was authorized with this option. No authorized union would make it tougher for the NHL to strike a deal.
After a federal mediator asked the parties to return to negotiations Thursday morning, player pensions, contract lengths and the salary cap for 2013-14 remained the unresolved issues.
Mediator Scot Beckenbaugh became involved in talks this week, ESPN reported. Twice before federal mediators had joined in negotiations, only to leave frustrated.
On Wednesday night, the NHL responded to the union's latest counterproposal at the league's New York headquarters.
The league and the players have exchanged proposals five times while attempting to reach an agreement on a new CBA Talks have heated up during the past week as the two sides work to avert the loss of the entire season.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said this week that Jan. 11 is the deadline for a deal to salvage the season. If a deal is made soon, there is hope that a 48-game season would start by Jan. 19.
Contract term limits, variances on individual contracts, player pensions and salary-cap compliance rules remain the sticking points.
Players apparently have compromised on the length of the collective-bargaining agreement, saying they would accept the league's a shorter CBA.
The NHL lockout began Sept. 16 and has wiped out the first 3 1/2 months of the season and the All-Star Game.