NHL players eager to get union help from Donald Fehr

Thumbnail image for Fehr.jpgThis probably isn’t the kind of story hockey fans are excited to read about, especially considering the potential implications it could have, but hey, we have to give you all the news here whether you like it or not. The Globe and Mail’s Chris Johnston breaks the fan-angst-filled update on what the NHLPA thinks of getting former MLBPA head man Donald Fehr involved as an adviser and possibly more.

A number of NHL players threw their support behind Fehr on the eve of meetings for the NHLPA’s executive board. Speaking at the union’s charity golf tournament on Monday afternoon, Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Mike Komisarek said he was “crossing his fingers” that Fehr would accept a leadership position with the union.

“He’d be a huge asset for the NHLPA,” said Komisarek. “To have him come in and lead this union, to round up and gather 700 guys and get them on the same page would be great.”

We talked about Fehr working with the NHLPA as an unpaid adviser a few weeks ago here and the NHLPA gave us their statement on the process, through a spokesman,  that “their search for a new Executive Director is ongoing and when the process has concluded, a report will be presented to the players for their consideration.”

As for more of what the players will do to try and convince Fehr to jump on board, Pittsburgh’s Max Talbot shared his thoughts.

“He’s obviously really experienced, what he’s done with baseball is great,” said Pittsburgh Penguins winger Max Talbot. “It’s tough to find someone with that kind of experience, but we don’t know what’s going to happen.

“We’re going to talk about it tomorrow and Wednesday.”

A little brown-nosing goes a long way and given what a huge mess the NHLPA has been for the better part of 20 years, getting the man who got the Major League Baseball Players Association everything they ever wanted and more certainly looks attractive.

The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell runs down a list of the things the NHL players will be looking to do at their summer meeting to amend their constitution. To sum it up best for you, these amendments essentially give more power to the executive director of the players union to lead more efficiently and with hopes for less mutiny. In other words, they’re setting it up so Donald Fehr (or whomever they decide on to lead them) can rule with less interference from within.

I’m not going to be Chicken Little here and yell about the sky falling, but the eventual 2012 battle to renegotiate the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the players and owners is going to be contentious, heated and probably ugly. Let’s just hope these guys all learned a lesson from what happened with the lost season.

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    Busy Blackhawks bring back Pokka, reportedly let Rasmussen walk

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    A busy off-season for the Chicago Blackhawks continued with some smaller moves that may still surprise some.

    The eyebrow-raiser, at least in some quarters, came when the Blackhawks decided not to hand Dennis Rasmussen a qualifying offer, thus allowing the 26-year-old forward to hit free agency. That news comes from The Athletic’s Scott Powers.

    Rasmussen played in 68 games last season (along with three playoff contests), receiving almost 12 minutes of ice time per night. Both were examples of him seeing more of a role in his second year with Chicago.

    Still, he didn’t put up big numbers at either the AHL or NHL level, so apparently the Blackhawks decided to spring him free. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports that the team might have soured on Rasmussen after he rejected an offer for a contract extension back in March.

    Powers also notes that Ville Pokka was signed to a one-year deal, opening the door for him to possibly make Chicago’s roster.

    These developments aren’t likely to add to what’s already been a frustrating off-season for Joel Quenneville in particular, but this still lines up with a pattern of changes. In the latest edition of “30 Thoughts,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman shares some details of Coach Q’s irritation:

    21. Joel Quenneville was at the draft Saturday after not appearing on Friday. He stormed out of a coach’s meeting — in full view of reporters — as news broke of the Chicago trades. It would have been very tough for him to lose Hjalmarsson, one of the NHL’s underappreciated great players.

    Quenneville’s cage was already rattled by the firing of assistant Mike Kitchen, so here’s hoping he at least signed off on these latest moves.

    Report: Red Wings grant Coyotes permission to interview Todd Nelson

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    There’s some activity as far as the Arizona Coyotes’ coaching situation goes, and soon there may be some answers.

    As noted during the weekend, the Coyotes were interested in speaking with Todd Nelson, who most recently coached the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings’ AHL affiliate) to a Calder Cup victory. The Red Wings granted Arizona permission to interview Nelson, according to the Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James.

    (Red Wings fans are greeting this news with despair.)

    It’s not the only noteworthy development, either, as the Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan reports that the Coyotes parted ways with associate coach Jim Playfair today. (The Coyotes confirmed the news moments after this post went up.)

    This is a time of change for this organization, and some are bristling at the way they’re handling things. Still, there’s also an argument that the team is ultimately making wise choices, and Nelson could end up being a big part of that.

    Assuming they convince him to come on board, of course.

    Gryba sticks with Edmonton on two-year, $1.8 million deal

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    After spending the last two seasons with the Oilers, Eric Gryba has signed on for two more.

    Gryba, the veteran blueliner that was set to go unrestricted on Saturday, has signed a two-year, $1.8 million extension with Edmonton, per TSN. The deal comes after the 29-year-old appeared in 40 games for the Oilers last year, and three during the club’s playoff run.

    Gryba is the second UFA blueliner Edmonton has re-upped with, having previously inked Kris Russell to a four-year, $16 million pact. It’s the byproduct of available cap space GM Peter Chiarelli created by shipping out Jordan Eberle to the Islanders in exchange for Ryan Strome.

    It’s likely Gryba will continue to play his existing role in Edmonton — a physical, hard-nosed depth defenseman that won’t play every night, but can jump into the lineup in case of injury or when the Oilers face a particular matchup.

    This move also gives the Oilers seven defensemen under contract for next season: Gryba, Russell, Andrej Sekera (who could miss extensive time with a torn ACL), Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Matthew Benning and Darnell Nurse.

    So, perhaps Chiarelli isn’t done signing blueliners.

     

     

    Report: Kings in contact with Joe Thornton

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    Yesterday, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported 12 teams were in contact with San Jose’s Joe Thorton who, on Saturday, will become an unrestricted free agent.

    Now, it’s been revealed that one of those teams is also one of San Jose’s biggest rivals — the Los Angeles Kings.

    Per LA Kings Insider, the Kings have “been in contact” with Thornton, who just wrapped the last of a three-year, $20.25 million deal with a $6.75M average annual cap hit.

    More:

    On top of Thornton’s abilities are his relationships with key figures in Los Angeles’ front office. He played with Kings General Manager Rob Blake in San Jose, while Senior Advisor to the General Manager/Development Mike O’Connell was Thornton’s general manager when he played in Boston.

    On top of these relationships, Thornton also remains very close with Glen Murray, a figure in Los Angeles’ player development, and I’m told the two, who played together with the Bruins for three and a half seasons, regularly communicate.

    LeBrun reported that staying with the Sharks remains Thornton’s No. 1 option, but it’s pretty clear interest in him is sky-high — and coming from a number of different places.

    Los Angeles has been making moves to clear cap space, recently buying out the remainder of defenseman Matt Greene’s contract. The Kings also lost blueliner Brayden McNabb to Vegas at the expansion draft.

    What happens with Marian Gaborik‘s $4.875M cap hit remains to be seen. The veteran winger underwent an offseason procedure for a “chronic” knee issue and, depending on his recovery, could open the year on long-term injured reserve.

    Thornton would give L.A. a formidable one-two punch at center along with Anze Kopitar (and a truly formidable 1-2-3 punch with Kopitar and Jeff Carter, for that matter). It’s also worth noting that as he’s gotten longer in the tooth, Thornton has successfully platooned as a winger — most notably during San Jose’s Stanley Cup run in 2016.