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Candidates emerging for Penguins GM job, team looking for hire in ‘2-3 weeks’

The Penguins are looking to quickly move and fill their open general manager position. A look at some names in the mix

2018 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

TSN’s Insider Trading segment last night shed some light on where the Pittsburgh Penguins are at right now in the wake of the sudden departure of Jim Rutherford from the general manager position.

Pierre LeBrun talked about how the Penguins have moved quickly on Thursday in the 24 hours after Rutherford left the team. LeBrun said that team president and CEO David Morehouse and Mario Lemieux have taken “a ton” of calls about the open position and that there is significant interest around the hockey community regarding the job.

“As of Thursday afternoon,” LeBrun said, “20 different candidates have reached out and expressed interest, some on their own directly, other people doing it on their behalf.”

LeBrun then mentioned some of the names on the Penguins radar as follows:

  • Jason Botterill
  • Ron Hextall
  • Chris Drury
  • Mark Hunter
  • Tom Fitzgerald
  • Peter Chiarelli
  • Scott Mellanby
  • Mike Gillis
  • Laurence Gilman
  • John Ferguson Jr
  • Mike Futa

Patrik Allvin is also a candidate who will interview for the job.

“While the Penguins are going to talk to a lot of people, they’re going to get to their short list in a hurry. I’m told they want to have a GM in place within 2-3 weeks from now.”

That makes sense, we are in the midst of the season and the Pens are short-staffed right now with only very new people in a management position in the front office in Allvin and Sam Ventura.

As Josh Yohe from The Athletic has hinted, and I tend to agree, Allvin is probably not going to be the full-time manager at this time. Becoming an NHL general manager takes a ton of time and years and years of grooming for the position. (Recall Botterill being an assistant GM for five years from 2009-14 and not getting the job the last time it was open in Pittsbugh). Allvin has been in a management position for 13 weeks. It’s too early for him, though his career looks promising continuing as an AGM.

An exterior hire makes the most sense and now it would be a matter of which person and personality that Morehouse and Lemieux want. The above names range from young up and comers like Drury and Mellanby to others who have had GM jobs before like Hextall and Gillis.

The one name that will doubtlessly stand out, despite being buried in the middle of the bullet points is Chiarelli. Chiarelli has a terrible reputation, having left disasters in his wake to a degree in Boston and then to a much larger degree in Edmonton. But he also has a Stanley Cup to his name. It doesn’t hurt to talk to as many different options as possible, but I wouldn’t get too worked up over Chiarelli being a candidate just yet. After all, Pierre McGuire was actually under SERIOUS consideration for the job in 2014, yet he didn’t get it. And if we can make it through that, we can certainly make it through Chiarelli’s name being loosely attached without over-reacting too much at this point.

On very intriguing name would be Ron Hextall, formerly the Flyers GM from 2014-18. Looking back on his career work, Hextall did some nice things for the Flyers, who ran out of patience with his approach.

Yet what Hextall did for the Flyers was to overhaul the team and eventually fix their salary cap — removing such anchors as Andrew MacDonald, Vincent Lecavalier, Chris Pronger among others and then draft what has become the groundwork for a successful team with names like Joel Farabee, Carter Hart, Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, Morgan Frost, Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom and Travis Sanheim all added in Hextall’s tenure through the draft.

It would be odd to see Hextall — perhaps best remembered by Pens’ fans as the unhinged goalie chasing around Robbie Brown after being scored upon — as the Pittsburgh Penguins GM, but life moves on. Hextall is 56 now, far removed from his playing days and the past is the past.

No matter what direction the Pens want to go, they shouldn’t suffer from a lack of options or possibilities. There’s plenty of candidates out there that they know very well (like Botterill and Fitzgerald), there are young rising stars, there are experienced previous manager, there are candidates very open to analytics (like Gillis), there are candidates with legal/technical backgrounds (like Futa), there are player development oriented (like Hunter) and pretty much everything in between.