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Former MLBPA executive director Donald Fehr to stay on with NHLPA in a significant role

If rumors circulating around the draft are to be believed, Don Fehr will be a major power broker of the NHL Players’ Association.

A number of sources have confirmed to THN.com that the former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players’ Association intends to stay on with the NHLPA in a significant, decision-making role. Whether that means he’ll be the next executive director or serve in a senior advisory role to work with and groom the next executive director is not known, but several sources maintained Fehr has decided he wants to remain with the NHLPA for the long-term.

It’s believed Fehr was the driving force behind the NHLPA’s decision this past week to both extend the current collective bargaining agreement by one year to the summer of 2012 and for the union to approve the five percent growth factor into the salary cap for 2010-11.

Sources have said a push is on to conduct a vote among the 30 player representatives concerning Fehr’s future so that he can be in place for the North American summer player meetings, which are scheduled for July 13 and 14. Any move to bring Fehr on would have to be approved by the player representatives, but that would be expected to happen once Fehr declared his intentions. It’s not certain whether there will be a vote before the July 13 meeting, but it’s believed an attempt will be made to hold one.

After earlier this year ending a 25-year tenure with the MLBPA in which he forged a career as one of the most powerful figures in professional sports, Fehr joined the NHLPA in an unpaid advisory role, in which his two main responsibilities were to rewrite the association’s unwieldy and leader-unfriendly constitution and lead the search committee for a new executive director.

But there are a number of players who believe Fehr would be perfect for the job and the sense was that the executive director post or another senior job would be his for the taking if he decided he wanted it. That decision, according to several sources, has already been made, which could turn out to be NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s worst nightmare.

Not only would Fehr add some much needed stability to an organization that has been riddled with corruption, incompetence and chaos since Bob Goodenow was fired in 2005, Fehr’s track record in baseball historically shows he gives no quarter in negotiations. Since he began as acting executive director of the baseball union in 1985, he has presided over three strikes or lockouts, the most extensive of which cancelled the 1994 World Series. Under Fehr’s leadership, the average salary for a Major League player rose from $289,000 in 1985 to $3.3 million this season.

Should Fehr end up taking a senior job with the NHLPA, it’s expected he would be the lead man in negotiations for the next CBA in two years. The main issue from the players’ standpoint is the escrow payments that were 12 percent last season and could be as high as 18 percent in 2010-11.

The owners have a number of issues they want addressed, foremost of which are guaranteed contracts, the length of contracts, no-movement clauses and long-term contracts of diminishing value that reduce the salary cap hit even if the player retires in the latter part of the deal.

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