NHLPA officially endorses Donald Fehr as next head of the union, players vote to approve awaits

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for donald fehr.jpgThe possibility of having Donald Fehr take over as the leader of the NHL Players Association just got one step closer to happening today. The NHLPA announced that they’ve endorsed Fehr to the members of the union and now it’ll be put to a vote as to whether or not to approve and appoint him to the position. From the NHLPA release:

The recommendation to appoint Fehr as Executive Director will next be submitted to the full NHLPA membership for consideration, along with various amendments to the NHLPA Constitution that were approved by the Executive Board earlier this summer.  The Executive Director and Constitution membership votes are expected to conclude following individual team meetings that will take place during training camp and the first part of the regular season, and Fehr’s appointment will not become official until that time.  In the interim, Fehr will continue to assist the NHLPA as a consultant.

“The Search Committee is pleased that the Executive Board has endorsed our recommendation to select Don Fehr as our new Executive Director and we look forward to our fellow members voting on this important matter,” said Mathieu Schneider.

“I am gratified by the Executive Board’s vote, and I look forward to meeting all the Players at team meetings which begin later this month,” said Fehr.

The NHLPA’s executive board includes Mathieu Schneider, Brian Rolston, Ryan Getzlaf, Brian Rafalski, and Jamie Langenbrunner and they’re the guys that had to make the full-on endorsement of Fehr. How much pull each of those guys have in talking with their teammates and union cohorts remains to be seen and is what will make the final vote on this interesting.

A splintered, majority approval would be the sort of thing to show Fehr exactly what he’s dealing with whereas a unanimous-ish kind of vote would show the kind of strength and unity not seen before amongst the NHLPA members. Obviously for fans there’s a lot of ominous feelings about Fehr potentially becoming the NHLPA’s go-to guy. Fans are still smarting from the NHL lockout of 2004-2005 and bringing in the guy that helped Major League Baseball cancel the World Series in 1994 does nothing to ease those thoughts.

Of course, no one remembers immediately that Fehr helped the MLBPA and MLB piece together an agreement in 2002 that’s helped MLB and the players become financial behemoths in the sports world. If Fehr can step in and help reach an accord with the NHL on par with that agreement, both sides will be rushing to build a statue in honor of Fehr.

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    Oilers reportedly might spend Eberle savings on signing Russell

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    Optimistic Edmonton Oilers fans who didn’t like the Jordan Eberle trade could at least rationalize the savings, as Ryan Strome comes at a $3.5 million salary-cap discount. Surely that money will be focused squarely on locking up the future – aka sorting things out with Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid – right?

    After all, that was the spin from GM Peter Chiarelli: moving Eberle for Strome was all about “long-term thinking.”

    Well, about that …

    TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that the Oilers are nearing a deal with defenseman Kris Russell that could carry approximately a $4 million cap hit over a four-year term. The dollar amount can change, but that would put the shot-blocking defenseman’s cost at around $16 million overall. (There are rumblings that it might be $18M with a no-movement clause.)

    Now, before we criticize (er, discuss) the move, do note that McKenzie reports that it isn’t a done deal. If it happens, it might not be announced until Friday, anyway.

    If it does go through, the move inspires comparisons to last summer. To refresh your memory, the Oilers made a polarizing (but money-saving) move by sending Taylor Hall to the Devils for Adam Larsson. Shortly after that trade, the Oilers essentially used those savings to sign Milan Lucic.

    Results were … mixed, and Lucic’s contract seemingly stands as a barrier to accrue other assets.

    Could the same thing happen here? Russell has his proponents, yet his possession stats indicate that his stature has been inflated, at times, around the NHL. One thing that’s undeniable is Russell’s age: he’s 30.

    Will a 30-year-old defenseman fall apart during a four-year deal? Not necessarily, although his shot-blocking tendencies inspire some concern; just look at how Dan Girardi aged in New York.

    Either way, it’s difficult to defend giving Russell about $4 million a year when you’re trying to sign Leon Draisaitl (RFA this summer) and Connor McDavid (RFA next summer, but eligible for an extension as early as July).

    Recent rumblings don’t inspire a ton of confidence, either. For one thing, Chiarelli made a strange semi-challenge regarding Draisaitl and offer sheets.

    There are also rumors about McDavid’s potential contract demands.

    Again, the parameters of a Russell deal could change; the Oilers might not even bring him back at all. TSN’s Darren Dreger also notes that McDavid wouldn’t necessarily receive that big payday he’d possibly ask for.

    Still, Oilers fans have experienced the worst-case scenario far more often than not in recent years, and these developments could inspire some doom and gloom … even if all three players are kept in the fold.

    Report: Vegas isn’t interested in trading defensemen Theodore, Schmidt

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    The Vegas Golden Knights enjoyed another busy day on Thursday, moving the likes of David Schlemko and Trevor van Riemsdyk. That doesn’t mean that all their defensemen are necessarily for sale, even with some pressure to trade away a few more.

    Now, it’s plausible that someone merely hasn’t found the right price to entice Golden Knights GM George McPhee, but TSN’s Pierre LeBrun indicates that he’s shooting down offers for especially enticing young defensemen.

    Specifically, McPhee gave a hard “No” to at least three teams regarding Shea Theodore and also stonewalled offers for Nate Schmidt, according to LeBrun.

    It’s probably not fair to say that McPhee hasn’t been willing to move younger players altogether. After all, Trevor van Riemsdyk is 25, much like Schmidt.

    Even so, one could infer that McPhee would be quicker to trade away a veteran whose value may not ever be higher, such as Marc Methot or Alexei Emelin.

    For what it’s worth, let’s break down the Golden Knights’ current defensemen in two camps (30-and-under, 30-and-older) along with their contract situations, with help from Cap Friendly.

    Under 30

    Luca Sbisa, 27, $3.6 million cap hit through 2017-18
    Brayden McNabb, 26, $1.7M through 2017-18
    Jon Merrill, 25, $1.138M through 2017-18
    Colin Miller, 24, $1M through 2017-18
    Theodore, 21, $863K through 2017-18
    Griffin Reinhart, 23, RFA
    Schmidt, 25, RFA

    30 and older

    Methot, $4.9M through 2018-19
    Jason Garrison, $4.6M through 2017-18
    Emelin, $4.1M through 2017-18
    Clayton Stoner, 32, $3.25M through 2017-18
    Deryk Engelland, 35, $1M through 2017-18

    Considering the options at hand, it’s still feasible that someone might convince McPhee to ship Schmidt and/or Theodore over, anyway. The Toronto Maple Leafs have been connected to Schmidt and Colin Miller in rumors, though it’s unclear how likely such moves might be. Vegas isn’t tied to many players beyond this coming season, so they have plenty of flexibility to change their minds.

    The Golden Knights may also view the trade deadline as a more fruitful time to move a veteran such as Methot.

    Even so, it sure sounds like McPhee would at least prefer to build around his youngsters, and Theodore might be the clearest keeper of them all.

    NHL may punish failed offside reviews with penalties next season

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    It wasn’t a good look for the league, and it wasn’t captivating television, particularly for casual hockey fans intrigued by a fresh Stanley Cup Final matchup.

    P.K. Subban seemed to score the first goal of the Penguins – Predators series, only for the 1-0 tally to be overturned after a lengthy offside review. Plenty of people in Nashville were never convinced that the league made the right call, and even if it was correct, Filip Forsberg would have been offside by a tiny margin. The fact that it came mere hours after Gary Bettman praised the process only exacerbated the issue.

    (You can watch that agonizingly minute discussion in the video above. Predators fans might not want to re-live it.)

    Colin Campbell presented an interesting question for next season on Thursday: would a team like Pittsburgh make such a marginal challenge if a failed review would result in a minor penalty?

    It’s something the executive will bring to the competition committee and then the Board of Governors; Campbell believes such a tweak has a strong chance of being instituted in 2017-18.

    Previously, a coach would lose his timeout if an offside goal review failed. If this change is implemented, a team would keep that timeout but suffer a minor penalty.

    Campbell notes that this tweak would apply to offside challenges, not goalie interference reviews.

    Ultimately, for Campbell, it comes down to the spirit of the offside rule. (TSN has video of his full comments.)

    Amusingly, the Predators also suffered from an infamous offside goal that would have benefited from an obvious review, as this Matt Duchene goal from 2013 inspired the NHL to admit that a mistake was made.

    The logic is pretty simple. If a goal was glaringly offside, then a team will view a challenge as worth the risk of possibly being penalized. If it’s a matter of inches or some other marginal question, a penalty would – ideally – deter a team from making a flimsier challenge. Specifically, Campbell pointed to offside reviews in which goals came long after the infraction had a significant impact on play.

    Now, sure, you could make some wise cracks about the idea, especially considering how the NHL’s suffered from a painful roll-out of a change here and there. And perhaps some coaches will still believe that it’s worth the risk to flip that coin.

    Still, the league’s heart is in the right place, and it could very well succeed in two goals: getting things right and not boring everyone to tears.

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    Blackhawks on ‘huge loss’ of Hossa, lingering salary cap questions

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    If any team could seamlessly move on from Marian Hossa, it would be the Chicago Blackhawks.

    That’s not to say that GM Stan Bowman and head coach Joel Quenneville lack appreciation for perhaps the best two-way winger of this era. Quenneville likely said it best to NHL.com: “I don’t think you replace [Hossa], because he’s a special player.”

    MORE: Skin condition will sideline Hossa for 2017-18

    Instead, it’s a testament to how the Blackhawks continue to contend, year after year: a willingness to make the tough choices that allow your team to compete. So, Chicago can merely “rebuild and reload” by taking that $5.275 million cap hit from Hossa’s seemingly inevitable trip to the LTIR, right?

    Not exactly. At least not yet, as CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers discusses:

    Here are two basics about the cap: a team can be 10 percent over it during the summer, and a team must be at or below it the day the regular season begins. If the Blackhawks place Hossa on LTIR, it wouldn’t take effect until the second day of the regular season. So on Day 1 of the season, the Blackhawks would still be carrying Hossa’s $5.275 cap hit.

    Once the LTIR would take effect, though, the Blackhawks would have wiggle room. If they spent to the $75 million cap, they could utilize Hossa’s entire $5.275 million cap hit on other players.

    Myers notes that Bowman said he wishes it was as simple as merely replacing Hossa’s cap hit – if not his impact – during the summer. Instead, things could be a bit more complicated.

    Things could get even messier if the NHL decides to impede Chicago’s progress.

    If the Blackhawks get to send Hossa to the LTIR, it won’t be the easiest situation. Before you get too gloomy about it, there still could be some creative options.

    Brainstorming a few ideas

    For one thing, what if the Vegas Golden Knights decide to keep James Neal around for a little while?

    Now, Neal and Hossa are very different players, yet both are wingers that can help your team win. Neal’s $5 million cap hit matches up remarkably well with that Hossa $5.275 million hit once it would go to LTIR, and the former Predators winger is in the last year of his contract.

    As Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee is wont to do, Neal would cost more than just money. Still, that’s just one example, and it’s plausible that other teams might want to sell off a piece but find summer offerings undesirable.

    In other words, a rental could be a good way to make lemonade from all of this.

    There’s also the possibility that the Blackhawks could look into players who didn’t get signed during the summer, including guys who just missed on PTOs.

    This isn’t to say that these are ideal scenarios, but the point is that the Blackhawks could still navigate this difficult situation, particularly if they show the flexibility and creativity they’ve displayed in avoiding salary cap challenges before.

    Even if it doesn’t mean another Hossa’s walking through that door.

    As a reminder, the Blackhawks may still have some moves in mind even before getting that delayed cap relief. We still need to find out if they are ridding themselves of Marcus Kruger‘s cap hit, something that Bowman wouldn’t address.

    None of this is necessarily easy, yet this franchise frequently aces tests like these.