NEW YORK — NHL players are just a slap shot away from returning to the Olympics next year.
After a long meeting Monday, there was no deal set among the league, the union and the International Ice Hockey Federation. But the sides were closer to an agreement to send the league's players to Sochi.
"Things are moving along," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said.
Bettman, union leader Donald Fehr and IIHF President Rene Fasel met for more than five hours at league headquarters to work on a deal that would let NHL players compete at the Olympics for the fifth time.
Fasel planned to get together with various international groups beginning today. Fehr plans to brief the players during multiday union executive board meetings next week.
"We had a very constructive meeting," Fasel said. "I am very happy and pleased."
Big deal buyout: The Islanders will buy out goalie Rick DiPietro, whose 15-year contract signed in 2006 was the longest in league history, ESPN and the Associated Press reported. New York will pay the former No. 1 overall pick $1.5 million for each of the next 16 years, double the years left on his pact. The 31-year-old will be placed on waivers today.
Coyotes Vote: The Glendale (Ariz.) City Council plans to vote today on a lease agreement at Jobing.com Arena with prospective new Coyotes owners Renaissance Sports & Entertainment. The league acquired the team out of bankruptcy in 2009.
Thomas return: The agent for goalie Tim Thomas said the former Bruin is ready to return after one year of inactivity.
Blue Jackets: The new two-year extension for Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky is worth $5.625 million per year, the Columbus Dispatch reported. The sides agreed to the deal Sunday and signed it Monday.