The NHL Players' Association is narrowing down its search for a new executive director and could have a new boss in place by next week.

The five-person NHLPA search committee — which includes NHLers Mike Cammalleri, Chris Chelios, Shawn Horcoff, Robyn Regehr and unrestricted free agent Eric Lindros — has three candidates remaining on their shortlist, one of which is believed to be former U.S. prosecutor Paul Kelly.

Kelly, a Boston trial lawyer with more than 20 years experience, is best known in the hockey world for building the American fraud and embezzlement case against former NHLPA boss Alan Eagleson.

Reilly Partners, the Chicago head-hunting firm employed by the NHLPA, will check the three finalists.

The search committee will then meet via conference call and select its choice for consideration by the executive board. The final board's 30 player representativeswill make the final decision.

The NHLPA executive director position has been vacant since Ted Saskin was fired last May.

Saskin, whose hiring in 2005 did not follow the association's bylaws, was alleged to have accessed the players' private e-mail accounts to gain information for his benefit.

He was in the second year of a five-year contract reportedly worth $10-million US.Saskin and the NHLPA are still negotiating a settlement on the remainder of his contract.

The hiring comes at a crucial time for the players' association.

The NHLPA can re-open negotiations on the collective bargaining agreement after the 2008-09 season, so the new union leader will determine how the membership moves forward with its relationship with the league.

The NHLPA set a goal of having a new boss at the helm by November, but an announcement could come as early as next week.

One name that has come up in the NHLPA search is Michael Weiner, who is general counsel for the Major League Baseball Players' Association and has done some work with the NHLPA on arbitration matters.

The Hockey News recently reported that Weiner, who is pegged as the next Donald Fehr (head of baseball's union), is not interested in the NHLPA job.