NHL lockout: Optimism reigns, but settlement still elusive

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Optimism surrounded collective bargaining talks Saturday between the NHL and its players' association.

It also taunted those who would like to see an agreement and an end to the lockout that has stretched nearly four months.

After many hours of the league and the union meeting separately with a federal mediator over the past two days, the sides sat down together Saturday afternoon, creating a buzz that agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement might be close.

The thinking is that mediator Scot Beckenbaugh would not orchestrate the resumption of face-to-face negotiations unless he felt there was room for positive movement.

A few Penguins players -- including team union representative Craig Adams -- were among those reserving judgment until they learned more.

Adams, while traveling to New York to join the talks, indicated he did not know enough details to justify the optimism that was spreading across the Internet.

Another player said he did not know details and had "only heard that talks were going well," but is hoping the momentum continues.

Eight NHL players, none Penguins, began the day sitting in on mediated talks that were held separately, with Beckenbaugh traveling between the NHL headquarters and a hotel where the NHLPA was meeting.

The face-to-face meeting stretched into the night. Beckenbaugh also was present, but it's believed no league owners were.

Heading into this latest round of mediated talks, the remaining issues included pensions, salary cap for 2013-14, length of the CBA, and length and salary variance of contracts.

Meanwhile, another vote by players to authorize a disclaimer of interest -- the second such vote in less than two weeks -- ended with what was believed to be more than enough votes for another such authorization.

The NHLPA did not act on that authorization earlier in the week.

If the NHLPA files a disclaimer, it would, in effect, dissolve the union. The union's executive board then could not negotiate on behalf of the players, but players could individually sue the NHL over the lockout.

It's not clear what type of deadline has been set for the NHLPA to file a disclaimer nor is it clear whether the authorization vote is a negotiation tactic or a fallback option if talks again break off.

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For much more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 or Twitter: @pgshelly.


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