AfterÂ months of political manoeuvring and speculation… and pending ratification, Donald Fehr appears primed to formally take office as the Executive Director of the NHLPA with the Ilya Kovalchuk saga providing an appropriate backdrop. Despite having earlier dismissed himself as a candidate for the role, the former MLBPA hardliner is now expected to spearhead the players union through the next series of collective bargaining negotiations in 2012.
Either a spectre to be feared, or a challenge to be relished for NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, one wonders if the league office wishes it had treated the ailing NHLPA with kid gloves following the late, late night coup that saw former figurehead Paul Kelly overthrown in August 2009.
*Warning:Â More analysis and opinionÂ concerning the Kovalchuk decision. For those who want to talk hockey, as opposed to the now perpetual indiscretions of the league office etc. Alex has a post beneath.
When Richard Bloch decided to rule in the favour of the NHL in the case of Ilya Kovalchuk and the ridiculous contract, he set in place a new precedent that the league hope will stem the flow of cap-circumventing front loaded contracts. In lieu of a concrete definition, the cover-all bases nature of Blochâ€™s ruling was expected to draw a line under the types of long, frontloaded contracts the NHL saw as detrimental to the spirit of equality the CBA and its salary cap was supposed to theoretically harbour.
If leaked reports are to be believed the NHLPA is preparing to file a grievance pertaining to the NHLâ€™s rejection of the unprecedented 17 year, $102 million contract filed last week by the New Jersey Devils for Russian forward Ilya Kovalchuk. The report suggests that even if the Devils and Kovalchuk can agree on a restructured deal, the NHLPA may still decide to file a grievance in a preventative effort for future contracts.
The latter part is particularly significant for those who have been viewing the leagues rejection of the initial contract as an act of political posturing in the face of the PAâ€™s on-going power struggle and an attempt at drawing a line in the sand.