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NHL, NHLPA continue negotiations in Toronto

by Dan Rosen

TORONTO -- Executives and legal counsel from the National Hockey League met with executives, legal counsel and a collection of 11 players from the National Hockey League Players' Association for roughly three hours Tuesday at the PA's office in ongoing collective bargaining negotiations.

This was the fourth meeting since bargaining commenced June 29 in New York. Donald Fehr, the executive director of the NHLPA, said the sides plan to meet Friday at the NHLPA offices and several times next week.

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires Sept. 15.

"They've been positive," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said of the meetings. "They've been constructive. They've been cordial."

The NHL was represented Tuesday by Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan, Boston Bruins Owner and Governor Jeremy Jacobs, Minnesota Wild Owner and Governor Craig Leipold, and Calgary Flames Chairman and Governor Murray Edwards, as well as counsel.

The NHLPA was represented by Fehr, Mathieu Schneider, who is the special assistant to the executive director, and legal counsel. The players in attendance were David Backes (St. Louis), Brad Boyes (New York Islanders), Chris Campoli, B.J. Crombeen (Tampa Bay), Mathieu Darche, Manny Malhotra (Vancouver), Steve Montador (Chicago), Jeff Skinner (Carolina), Jason Spezza (Ottawa), Kevin Westgarth (Los Angeles) and Daniel Winnik. Campoli, Darche and Winnik are all unrestricted free agents.

"The parties are approaching this in an appropriate and business-like manner and have got meetings scheduled going out into the future," Fehr said. "I wouldn't draw any particular significance to it beyond that, but you have to have a series of meetings."

Bettman and Fehr both said there is still a lot of work to do, but both also expressed optimism about the meetings thus far.

"The process is moving forward in a constructive manner," Bettman said.

Fehr added that some of the issues discussed Tuesday involved "day-to-day player working conditions" such as travel, but neither side delved deep into the details on what is being discussed.

"I don't think it's constructive for the process for me to be characterizing whether or not things are moving in a certain manner or what our proposals or demands are," Bettman said. "The best work that will be done in this process will be done in the conference rooms and across the negotiating table."

Malhotra and Campoli, who spoke to the media on behalf of the players, both said the meetings have been business-like.

"The lines of communication are open," Malhotra said.

Added Campoli: "There are a lot of players involved. Guys are making their points and, as a union, that's what you want; it's great."

Campoli also said he hasn't noticed any change in the way teams are operating this summer despite the fact that the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in a little more than two months.

"It has been business as usual I think," he said. "There are some guys still out there (in free agency), but teams have signed a lot of guys. I think the League made comments that they were going to continue to operate that way and teams are building their clubs. I haven't seen a difference. The UFA market is pretty status quo."

"As long as things continue business as usual, that's good," added Fehr.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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