NHL, union getting closer

In this photo taken Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012, an NHL sign for authorized personnel only is shown in an empty hallway at Joe Louis Arena home of the Detroit Red Wings hockey club in Detroit. (Paul Sancya/ AP File)

The NHL and the players' union appear to be inching closer to a settlement that would end their 112-day lockout.

After both sides talked separately Saturday morning with federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh in New York City, the parties got together at 1:15 p.m. _ the first time they had met in the same room since negotiations broke down early Thursday morning.

The NHL is willing to move the 2013-14 cap to about $63 or $64 million, according to the New York Post. The league had been seeking a $60 million cap, while the players wanted it set at $65 million.

With a higher cap for teams, the NHLPA may agree not to have a cap on players' escrow payments.

There were also reports that the pension issues were close to being agreed upon.

Both sides were still in the meeting at 4:30 p.m.

At 6 p.m., the NHLPA's vote will end on whether to file a disclaimer of interest. The disclaimer would disband the union and enable it to file a lawsuit that claims the lockout is illegal.

With all the reported progress Saturday, however, it seems unlikely the disclaimer will be filed for the time being.

If the NHLPA does decide to file the disclaimer, it probably won't do so until after both sides appear for a status conference Monday. The conference was set up because of a motion filed in federal court by the NHLPA, seeking to dismiss the league's suit to have the lockout declared legal.

Then again, all the legal possibilities will become moot if the sides reach an agreement beforehand.

The groundwork for Saturday's success was set Friday, when Beckenbaugh met separately with both sides for a total of 12-plus hours. He was also a mediator in the NHL's 2004-05 labor dispute. The entire season was canceled that year.

If an agreement is reached by Friday, a 48-game season would start Jan. 19.

(more to come)