NEW YORK -- The self-imposed midnight deadline for the NHLPA to file a disclaimer of interest, which would dissolve the union, came and passed Wednesday evening as negotiations continued into Thursday morning.
After a day full of meetings with the NHL and a federal mediator, the union elected not to disband, multiple sources told ESPN.com.
The players may still decide to explore that route in the future if they feel no progress is being made, but that would require the membership to vote again and authorize the union's executive board the right to file.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the word "disclaimer" never even surfaced throughout the day's negotiations.
"The word 'disclaimer' has never been, has yet to be, uttered to us by the players' association," Bettman said. "When you disclaim interest as a union, you notify the other side. We have not been notified, and as I've said, it's never been discussed, so there is no disclaimer."
Bettman said the two sides, which met throughout the day in small group sessions and then in a formal negotiating meeting for more than five hours into Thursday morning, will meet again Thursday morning at the request of federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh. The time is tentatively set for 10 a.m.
Both Bettman and Fehr said there was some traction in some areas, but declined to go into further detail. It is not believed they reached an agreement on any of the issues paramount to each side, however.
"The parties moved closer together on some issues. There's still a ways to go if an agreement can be reached," Fehr said. "We'll consider where we are in the morning and what to do next."
Said Bettman: "There's been some progress but we're still apart on some issues, but as long as the process continues, I'm hopeful."
"As you might expect, the differences between us relate to the core economic issues which don't involve the share," Fehr said, referring to hockey-related revenue.
One issue that is known to be a large sticking point is the proposed salary cap for Year 2. The NHL is asking for a $60 million cap in 2013-14, down from $70.2 million (pro-rated) in 2011-12, while the union is seeking $65 million, a source told ESPNNewYork.com.
The proposal-swapping between the NHL and the NHLPA began Wednesday afternoon, with the union submitting another offer to the league.
After a round of small-group meetings Wednesday morning -- held mainly to discuss pension issues -- the union returned to league offices shortly before 3 p.m. ET to deliver its latest proposal. It was the fourth proposal made between the two sides in the past six days.
The two sides then reconvened shortly after 8 p.m. ET and met until approximately 1 a.m. Thursday.
Fehr declined to address the union's decision on the disclaimer -- he wouldn't even confirm whether they filed or not -- but said the players "retain all the legal options they have always had."
Should talks go south and the players decide to revisit the option after an affirmative vote, the NHLPA would thus surrender its right to collectively bargain as a union.
Although the immediate outcome of such a move is unknown, a vote to disclaim interest would have a significant impact on negotiations -- possibly derailing them altogether -- and would be a sign the two sides are not as close as many had hoped.
The fact that the players elected not to use the option yet is a good sign they'd prefer to try negotiating a deal instead.
The league already has canceled all games through Jan. 14, and the deadline to salvage the season is looming. Bettman said a deal would need to be reached by Jan. 11 in order for a 48-game season to be possible.