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Penguins GM search update: Drury, Ferguson to interview with Pittsburgh

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And Jason Karmanos is back in the picture!

New York Rangers v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images

More news is starting to come out about the Penguins ongoing search for their next general manager.

There was some questions as to whether or not the Rangers would allow Drury to speak with Pittsburgh. Drury is seen as an up and coming executive, he has been an NYR assistant general manager for almost five years now and seems on the verge eventually of getting a promotion.

Some have a negative reaction to hearing Ferguson is in the mix. He’s best known for being the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs from 2003-08 but has also been the Bruins director of player personnel for the past eight years. The latter feels more promising, being as Boston has experienced a lot of success and drafted/developed some great players in the last decade.

Rob Rossi from The Athletic had an interesting tidbit about how Ferguson might be perceived by the Pens’ executives:

John Ferguson Jr., for whom the Penguins anticipated receiving consent from the Bruins, is thought of by some in Pittsburgh as of “the Sully model,” a team source said, a high-ceiling candidate who learned hard lessons in a previous job as Mike Sullivan did as head coach of the Bruins.

Elliotte Friedman had a nugget about more names in the mix in his today’s 31 Thoughts column:

Pittsburgh will begin interviews with its “long list” of GM candidates this week. Many names are already out there, but what we’re still waiting for is clarity on Rangers assistant GM Chris Drury. If he’s involved in this process, he’s a serious contender.

A couple newer names to keep an eye on: former Dallas GM Joe Nieuwendyk and Jason Karmanos, who was part of the Penguins’ front office until being fired during the off-season. (More on him in a second.) Nieuwendyk has preferred low-profile roles in Carolina and Seattle over the past few years, but there are rumblings Pittsburgh would like to talk to him

Friedman also mentioned that another candidate, New Jersey GM Tom Fizgerald, would NOT be allowed by NJ to talk to the Penguins at this time.

The mention of Karmanos in the mix is pretty surprising, being as just months ago the Penguins fired him as an assistant GM. Friedman had an interesting note on Karmanos:

There’s a theory [Karmanos’] absence contributed to the philosophical split between Rutherford and ownership, because Karmanos wasn’t there to act as the buffer.

Along those lines, the relationship between Rutherford and the Pens fell apart not long after Karmanos left. Karmanos is an interesting candidate since he obviously has intimate familiarity with the team and ownership might like his style. More from Friedman from an interview that Rutherford did last year, Rutherford said:

I think it was really good for [Karmanos] to come to Pittsburgh with me because he got away from people thinking he was only working because it was with the team that his father owned. But he did a lot of good things in Carolina with me. He’s really good with contracts, he’s really good at evaluating players, he’s what I need for a guy that works and an assistant GM

The Pens can’t have Rutherford anymore, but if they want a manager who worked with him for 20 years in very close proximity and knows how the Pens operate, he could be a very intriguing target for Pittsburgh. Almost as the next best thing to continue what ownership wanted out of Rutherford with the next best thing, if that’s the direction they want to take.

Friedman didn’t specifically share or mention anything about other senior executives expected to be in the mix at least for an interview like Mike Gillis, Ron Hextall and Mike Futa, which may or may not indicate where they stand at the moment. Rossi did mention that all three are on a list that the Pens will be talking to this week, as is current interim GM Patrik Allvin.

At this point, as the process plays out, we know that the Penguins will certainly be doing their due diligence to talk to a wide variety of candidates for the job. The news about Fitzgerald (understandably) not being made available by the Devils likely strikes him from contention with the Pens’ stated goal to hire a new GM in a matter of weeks.

With that door closing on Fitzgerald, another one has opened with the news that the Pens will at least be able to interview a candidate in Chris Drury that wasn’t known if his employer would allow him to be involved in the process. Karmanos being in the picture is also a development to be tracked and possibly seriously considered.

We’ll see in the coming days and weeks which candidates make it to further stages of the process. For today, it’s safe to put the names of Drury, Ferguson, Karmanos to join the ranks of the previously known managers that are in the fray.