Donald Fehr may be the front-runner to become the new executive director of the NHL Players' Association, but a union representative said Thursday a deal has not yet been finalized.
The Sports Business Daily reported Wednesday Fehr has agreed to take the job and other candidates have been informed they're no longer under consideration, citing multiple sources. Neither Fehr nor the NHLPA would confirm Wednesday that an agreement was in place. Any recommendation by the union's search committee would need to be approved in a vote by the union's 30 player reps, a process one union rep said was still ongoing.
"The news reports, I can tell you, are not entirely accurate. There is a process that is still ongoing. The process isn't completed. When the process is completed and there's an announcement to be made, everybody will be made aware," Mike Ouellet, the NHLPA's chief of business affairs, told reporters at the conclusion of the World Hockey Summit on Thursday. "As far as the timeline goes, the expectations and hope is that something is in place by training camp.
"For the reports to come out and say an offer has been accepted is, to say the least, a little premature given the process. No recommendation has been made [by the selection committee] to the executive board yet."
The NHLPA hired Fehr to come on as an unpaid consultant to help rewrite its constitution and assist in the search for a new executive director. Fehr, 61, was head of the MLB players union from 1983 to 2009, and was considered a hard-line negotiator.
"He's got a tremendous wealth of experience in this area," Ouellet said. "I don't think there's anybody on the planet who has the type of experience he has working for a professional sports union. That's been very valuable for the players as they've worked through the process through the last year."
New Jersey Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner, who is also at the summit and is a member of the five-player search committee along with Ryan Getzlaf, Brian Rafalski, Brian Rolston and Mathieu Schneider, said he is looking forward to the hiring of a new leader. The post has been empty for the past year following the dismissal of former executive director Paul Kelly.
Langenbrunner said the league has taken advantage of the union's leadership vacuum on a number of fronts, including the recent rejection of Ilya Kovalchuk's free-agent contract with the Devils.
"They're [the league] throwing a few hammers out here because of the situation the PA has been in in the last year. The lack of a head and a lot of the staff gone, they see a little bit of a wounded animal and they're taking advantage of that, I do believe," Langenbrunner said. "We're moving forward in the right direction. Hopefully, the new head will get us pointed back in the right direction and back to where we should be."
Langenbrunner said he's spoken to Kovalchuk and is confident a contract will get done and the winger will be back with the Devils.
"It's unfortunate that it has taken the turns it has. For us, we're excited if we can get him signed. It was great getting him on our team, he's a great player. If they can get something worked, that's great for us," Langenbrunner said.
NHL reporter Scott Burnside contributed to this report.