The NHL and the NHL Players' Association agree there is still more than enough time to reach a new labor deal even though the union has yet to submit a counteroffer with less than six weeks left before the current collective bargaining agreement expires.
''I don't think time's running out yet,'' NHL Players' Association executive director Don Fehr said by phone Monday from Barcelona, where he met with about 40 players. ''I still think if the parties are dedicated to it, there's sufficient time to reach an agreement.''
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly concurred.
''While time is getting shorter, we continue to feel there is sufficient time to reach a deal before Sept. 15,'' Daly wrote in an email to The Associated Press.
What is unclear is what happens after that deadline passes, and concerns that the NHL could impose a lockout, which is something Fehr doesn't favor.
''There's no law that says you have to lock out,'' Fehr said. ''If both parties are both really interested in trying to reach an agreement, and if we both really care what the people watching hockey games think, then we ought to be doing everything we can to avoid that eventuality. And that includes not short-circuiting the process.''
Fehr has already proposed having talks continue beyond the deadline and having the season open without disruption under the current system.
Daly declined to discuss the NHL's plans if an agreement is not reached by mid-September.
''We will deal with the Players' Association on the issue of `what then?' if we don't (reach a deal),'' Daly wrote in an email. ''Not prepared to debate that point publicly right now.''
Negotiations will resume at the league headquarters in New York on Tuesday. Fehr is expected to be back at the table by as early as Wednesday.
Fehr is in the midst of a brief swing across the Atlantic that took him to Moscow and Spain, where he provided updates on talks and recorded feedback from the NHL's European players.