The National Hockey League Players' Association has asked federal mediators to return to the negotiations in the hopes of speeding up a deal with the league, the union announced.
The NHL and the union have made tentative plans to meet for a third straight day at a New York City hotel, but haven't yet sat down at the bargaining table. The sides have spent nearly 20 hours over the past two days working toward a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
An NHLPA spokesperson told NHL.com Thursday afternoon that the Union requested the mediators because of a belief that it will expedite the process. The NHL must consent to that request.
Representatives from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services met with the two sides for several hours during those two days, but couldn't move the process forward.
The NHLPA met informally throughout Thursday.
"We obviously had a number of meetings [Wednesday] over many hours," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told NHL.com after Thursday's meeting. "Had good candid dialogue on a lot of issues. There continue to be some critical open issues between the two parties and we understand the Union should be getting back to us [Thursday] on some of those issues."
Winnipeg Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey, a member of the NHLPA's negotiating committee, issued a brief statement:
"We had a series of meetings today, very candid discussion, and we plan on meeting again [Thursday]."
Three months of negotiations have led to owners dropping requests for changes to free agency and arbitration, and upping their make-whole provision offer to $300 million. As a compromise, owners want a 10-year contract, with the ability to opt out after eight seasons.
The players' agreed to a 50-50 revenue split in hockey-related revenue in their most recent offer, a concession from the previous collective bargaining agreement which gave players 57 percent. Getting to 50-50 was the owners' primary objective.
Owners have maintained their request to cap free-agent contracts at five years, but have allowed for teams to sign their own players for up to seven years. They have also kept their demand for a 5 percent maximum year-to-year swing on multiyear contract salaries. Owners wanted this change to end the business of adding low salary years at the end of contracts to decrease the average salary amount for cap purposes.
If a deal is reached soon, there is time to play a 56- or 58-game season.