Mediators to return to NHL talks

NEW YORK -- The NHL and the players' association once again will get outside help in an attempt to resolve the months-long labor dispute.

Federal mediators will be involved in negotiations when the two sides meet Wednesday at an undisclosed location, multiple sources confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com on Tuesday. This is the second attempt by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services to help broker a deal between the league and players.

The FMCS deemed the two sides too far apart when it tried to facilitate discussions in late November, sparking three players- and owners-only meetings last week in Manhattan, an endeavor that seemed promising after the first marathon session but ultimately blew up by Day 3. The NHL rejected the NHLPA's last proposal and pulled its most recent offer off the table.

The NHLPA requested mediation before talks went south, but the NHL did not consent to that request.

What's different this time around? Before the league rescinded its offer, the league and players appeared to make progress in significant areas such as transition payments, pension plans and other elements that divided the sides.

"Different circumstances this week than last," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPNNewYork.com via email. "I'm not sure it can help, but I guess we will find out."

A source told ESPN.com that FMCS mediator Scot Beckenbaugh will attend Wednesday's session.

Whether the use of a mediator can help bridge the gap on the remaining key issues -- player contracting rights, the length of the CBA and compliance issues -- remains to be seen.

Owners are not expected to be involved in Wednesday's sessions, multiple sources said. One source did confirm that players will be in attendance, but the exact number hasn't been determined.

Information from ESPN.com's Scott Burnside was used in this report.