Commissioner Gary Bettman met with NHL Players Association Executive Director Bob Goodenow Tuesday, but neither side reported any progress toward a new collective bargaining agreement.
Bettman characterized the tenor of the 21/2-hour meeting as "candid and cordial."
Ted Saskin, the players' union's senior director, said, "While there was candid discussion, it would be misleading to suggest that there was any progress made or to characterize our discussions as productive."
There was no movement on the fundamental issue -- controlling player salaries, which the league refers to as "cost certainty" and the union calls a salary cap. Bettman said the league's proposal of a $31 million allotment for players' salaries per team isn't a salary cap system. The players association disagrees.
"A salary cap is one way of doing this, but it's not the only way," Bettman said before Tuesday night's Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals at the St. Pete Times Forum. "Any dialogue is good dialogue, although the meeting did not result in any new news."
The sides agreed to meet again soon at a time and location yet to be determined, he said.
Bettman's comments come at a time when the NHL is in serious financial trouble. The league contends its 30 teams lost a combined $273 million last season and that 76 percent of all league revenue was spent on players' salaries -- far more than other professional sports leagues. If a new deal can't be reached by Sept. 15 -- when the current agreement expires -- then a work stoppage is expected. Most teams, including the Washington Capitals, are bracing for such a scenario by laying off staff.
Asked if the league would open training camp for next season without a new deal in place, Bettman said, "We cannot live under the collective bargaining agreement for any longer than its term."
Tuesday's meeting was the second substantial bargaining session between Bettman and Goodenow, who met in Toronto late last month.
"It's the same issue," Saskin said. "There's nothing new. We remain prepared to negotiate changes that can address the owners' stated concerns but see no need for the revolutionary shift to a cap system, which the NHL appears determined to obtain."
Staff writer Thomas Heath contributed to this report from Washington.