A Fehrful day in the NHL; Kovy update

FDR famously said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Well, yesterday’s developments in the NHL may have altered the spelling slightly to F-E-H-R.

The hockey media responded to reports that former MLBPA leader Donald Fehr will soon take over the NHL players association with much trepidation yesterday. The players association has been rudderless since the middle-of-the-night axing of Paul Kelly.

Unlike baseball, whose players association is strong like bull, the NHLPA has been seen as weak and its membership disinterested since the 2004-05 lockout. Fehr’s veteran leadership should change that, which is fueling concerns of another labor stoppage in the NHL after the current collective bargaining agreement expires at the end of the 2011-12 season.

ESPN’s Scott Burnside writes that the recommendation in favor of Fehr by the search committee, which included Fehr himself, seems a little too convenient.

Devils fans longing to see Ilya Kovalchuk skate in Newark had even more to fear yesterday, as a report from Yahoo!’s Dmitry Chesnokov states that if the Devils cannot get a contract approved by the NHL in the next 24-48 hours, Kovalchuk could decide to spend next season in the KHL.

Yuri Nikolaev, Kovalchuk’s agent in Russia, said he had spoken to KHL team SKA St. Petersburg and that a decision will come Friday, according to Sovetsky Sport (via Fire and Ice). It’s been previously reported that SKA St. Petersburg would allow Kovalchuk to name his terms if he came to the KHL. With that kind of offer, Kovalchuk could be kissing his own miniature giraffe by tomorrow night.

Chesnokov allows that it could be bargaining bluster, but to what end? It’s not as though the Russian requires better terms from the Devils. And it’s unlikely that a second suitor from the NHL will jump in at this stage. Particularly since the Los Angeles Kings, Kovalchuk’s other most likely landing spot, just inked D Willie Mitchell for $7 million over two years. The words may be intended to pressure the NHL into softening their stance on Kovy’s contract, but if the NHL is serious about stopping salary cap circumvention, they have little choice but to stand their ground.

Should make for an interesting Friday.

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