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About $182 million apart on core economic issues, there’s further disagreement on matters such as contract length (players want none while owners want to institute a five-year limit) and arbitration rights.

Even if mediators Scot L. Beckenbaugh and John Sweeney cannot bring about a quick settlement, perhaps the value of their presence is in the development of new ideas.

“These are very smart people, they’re very well prepared, they’ve run numbers out the wazoo. They know what’s going on,” Roberts said. “The only thing a mediator could conceivably do is come up with some complicated set of proposals that neither side has thought of up until this point in time that might pique their interest and get them started talking in a way that might lead to a result.”

Already 422 regular-season games have been canceled, along with the Winter Classic and the All-Star Game. The NHLPA is considering decertification to force the owners’ hand, and something has to give if the sides are to prevent the Stanley Cup from not being awarded for the second time in less than a decade.

But it’s uncertain whether mediation will be the solution.

“If I knew the answer to that, I’d be a soothsayer,” Roberts said. “I just don’t think anybody really knows.”