Three possible GM candidates surface as Penguins start hunt

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The Penguins' 29th-place finish in the NHL standings is no deterrent for perspective general-manager candidates. At least, that's the view of one person interested in the job.

"The Pittsburgh opportunity, anybody would consider that one of the plum jobs," Dallas Stars pro scout John Weisbrod said yesterday.

"Some teams are rebuilding, and they're at the end of their rope. [The Penguins] are a team at the beginning of their rope."

Weisbrod said he hasn't "done anything proactively from my end because it's early in the process" but added that he might soon pursue the job unless things work out quickly with his candidacy for the New York Islanders' GM post.

The Penguins fired Craig Patrick Thursday.

Weisbrod likes the Penguins' large pool of young players, led by rookie center Sidney Crosby, especially in light of the year-old salary cap in the NHL.

"You've got to do it the old-fashioned way and develop talent," he said. "The Penguins are in such a good situation. They've got those pieces in place. They really did a good job in preparing for the post-lockout NHL."

Weisbrod, 37, a Harvard graduate, has experience with a salary cap. He was a minor-league hockey executive -- winning a championship in the International Hockey League before it folded, then joined the NBA Orlando Magic and worked his way up to the general manager and chief operating officer spot.

The NBA also operates with a salary cap.

Weisbrod, who also spent time as head scout with the New Jersey Devils, left the Magic last May to return to the NHL with the Stars.

Another former GM -- this one in the NHL -- is interested in the Penguins' job.

Neil Smith, 51, was the Rangers' GM for 11 seasons, including 1994 when they won the Stanley Cup to end a 54-year drought.

Smith technically works for the Penguins, where he has been a consultant to the GM, but that has been a low-profile role since he joined cable network OLN as an analyst for hockey telecasts this season.

"It's a very good opportunity to build a club," Smith said, adding that he hopes the Penguins contact him but that he won't actively pursue the job out of deference to Patrick, a longtime friend.

"If I can help them, great," Smith said. "You don't need a crystal ball to see what they're building."

Smith said he wouldn't be leery of taking a GM's job with a team that was for sale, as the Penguins are, because, with his experience, it wouldn't be devastating to his career if the new owners wanted to bring in their own management staff.

One other possible candidate has a name familiar to hockey fans.

Brent Sutter, one of six brothers from Alberta who played in the NHL, is the owner, general manager and coach of the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League. His name comes up in connection with openings around the NHL, and he said he has been contacted by and interviewed with several club in recent years.

"If teams are interested, I'll certainly listen to them, but I'm not pursuing anything," Sutter, 43, said. "For me to leave, it's obviously going to have to be the right situation."

Notes

The Penguins' prospects for getting highly regarded prospect Evgeni Malkin here for the 2006-07 season likely got a major boost yesterday, when Hall of Fame goalie Vladislav Tretiak was elected head of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation. Tretiak is far more receptive to the idea of Russia participating in the transfer agreement between the NHL and the International Ice Hockey Federation than his predecessor, Alexander Steblin. The transfer agreement sets the price NHL teams pay for European prospects; Russia is the only hockey-playing nation in Europe that has not signed off on the transfer agreement worked out last year.

Associated Press
John Weisbrod and Neil Smith: Perspective general-manager candidates?
Click photo for larger image.

Shelly Anderson can be reached at shanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1721.


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