NEW YORK, N.Y. - The NHL delivered a comprehensive counter-proposal to the NHL Players' Associaton on Tuesday night as the sides pushed to reach an agreement that would save the season.
NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said the union would review the document during the evening and expected to return to the bargaining table at some point on Wednesday.
Fehr declined to be specific about what was being negotiated. "It's better to be meeting than not but I'm not saying anything else more about it," he said.
The talks are being held with an eye on preserving at least a 48-game schedule — the same number that was played following the 1994-95 lockout. An agreement would need to be in place by Jan. 11 for that to happen.
"The fact that we're involved in a continuous process is something that I'm glad to see, but we're clearly not done yet," said commissioner Gary Bettman.
League officials met well into the night Monday after receiving a new offer from the union that Fehr said included movement on key issues.
It came three days after the NHL tabled a new offer that sparked the latest round of talks.
"We covered the range of subjects they covered," said Fehr.
With a push now on to make an agreement, Fehr and Bettman rejoined talks for the first time in more than a month. The two leaders stayed out of the bargaining room during three days of negotiations in early December.
The NHL's most recent offer saw it soften demands on new contract rules and included a salary cap of $60 million for the 2013-14 season — a number the union believes is too low. That would severely limit the money teams have to spend in the coming off-season.
While few details of the NHLPA's new proposal are known, Bettman indicated that it brought attention to the key issues that still need to be addressed.
"There was an opportunity for the players' association to highlight the areas that they thought we should focus on based on their response," said Bettman. "And that's something we've now got to look at very closely."
With both sides remaining fairly tight-lipped, there was optimism that they could be closing in on a deal. Prior to talks going off the rails on Dec. 6, Fehr said the sides were so close that they were virtually on top of one another on all of the important issues.
That appears to still be the case.
"My view hasn't changed from a month ago," said Fehr.
There are signs the 108-day lockout is nearing its end. Players who have spent time in Europe are starting to trickle back to North America, including Bruins forward Tyler Seguin and Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who wrote on Twitter that "hopefully I'm coming back for the right reason."
The talks came on a day the NHL has devoted to celebrating the sport with the Winter Classic outdoor game. This year's event between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs was expected to draw more than 100,000 fans to Michigan Stadium, but it was cancelled two months ago.
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How Much Are Canada's NHL Teams Worth?
Let's face it, hockey is Canada's game. So it's not a surprise that Canada's NHL teams are among the most valuable in the game. <a href="http://www.forbes.com/nhl-valuations/#p_3_s_a0_" target="_hplink">Here's how much they're worth according to Forbes magazine.</a> (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Toronto Maple Leafs
The long-suffering Leafs are in Canada's biggest TV and fan market. The Leafs are the league's most valuable team worth $521-million. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
The Montreal Canadiens
The NHL's most successful team, the Montreal Canadiens are worth $445-million. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
The Vancouver Canucks
Last year's Stanley Cup runner-up, the Vancouver Canucks are worth $300-million. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
The Calgary Flames
The Calgary Flames might be struggling this year but they're still worth $220-million. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
The Edmonton Oilers
The Gretzky-fueled glory days are over but the Oilers have a crop of young talent that they hope can be a foundation. The other team from Alberta is worth $212-million. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
The Ottawa Senators
The host of this year's All-Star Game, the Ottawa Senators are the other team in hockey-mad Ontario. They're worth $201-million. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
The Winnipeg Jets
The Winnipeg Jets return to Canada was an emotional one. Canada's 7th NHL team is worth $164-million. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)