NHL, NHLPA making progress

NEW YORK -- The NHL and NHL Players' Association appear to be inching closer to a deal.

The two sides are meeting face to face, along with a federal mediator, for the first time since Thursday and are trying to hash out the remaining issues to reach a new collective bargaining agreement.

Asked at 4 a.m. ET Sunday about the direction of negotiations, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.com via email: "Making progress."

With the league and union trying to find a resolution on the Year 2 salary cap -- arguably the most contentious issue at this point -- the league has budged from its proposed $62.5 million, a source told ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun.

If a deal gets done, the NHL has 50-game or 48-game schedules drawn up, sources told LeBrun.

The two sides have been holed up together for hours at the players' hotel in midtown Manhattan after two consecutive days of meeting with federal mediator Scot L. Beckenbaugh separately.

Beckenbaugh brought the two sides together Saturday morning, presumably because he felt the gap was narrow enough to bridge with time winding down.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said that a deal needs to be reached by Jan. 11 for the season to open by Jan. 19 on a 48-game schedule.

Although there is mounting sense of hope that a deal can be reached, the NHLPA likely will have some leverage if talks go off the rails.

A union vote to reauthorize the executive board the right to file a disclaimer of interest ended Saturday at 6 p.m. ET and was expected to pass by a significant margin. If the union executive board disclaims, it could pave the way to antitrust suits against the league and potentially further delay a settlement.