Search for GM to replace Shero already in gear

Successor will determine Bylsma's fate

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The Penguins' personnel wish list, as laid out Friday by team president and CEO David Morehouse, is pretty predictable.

"We want to have a team that's hard to play against," Morehouse said. "We want to have a fast team. We want to have a tough team. We want to have a team with character."

So, he presumably is aware, do the other 29 NHL clubs.

The chances of actually assembling the kind of team co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle, along with Morehouse, want will hinge in large part on whom they select to replace Ray Shero as general manager.

Shero, the Penguins' general manager since 2006, was fired Friday.

He has been replaced on an interim basis by assistant general manager Jason Botterill, who is, for the moment, the only publicly identified candidate to take over the job, long term.

Botterill, whose playing career was shortened by concussions, is a salary-cap specialist and one of the league's up-and-coming front-office stars.

He has been a candidate for several previous general manager openings around the NHL, and his body of work, which includes serving as general manager of the Penguins' minor league team in Wilkes-Barre, suggests he's ready to run a team at this level.

Botterill could not be reached for comment Friday.

Shero's replacement will have the authority and autonomy needed to make whatever personnel moves he deems necessary, Morehouse said, adding that Shero also did.

And while he didn't name any candidates except Botterill, Morehouse seemed certain there will be no shortage of applicants.

"We have a large group of people in mind," he said. "And we think that we'll get more people interested now that we've announced that we have an opening."

Some of the names that might begin circulating as the search for Shero's successor gets underway include:

■ Boston assistant general manager Jim Benning. He's a former NHL defenseman who has been in the Bruins' front office since 2006. He's involved in every aspect of the team's personnel dealings and has been a leading contender for numerous general manager jobs in recent years. The only real surprise in hockey circles is that he hasn't gotten one yet.

■ Player agent Pat Brisson. Although he would be a somewhat unconventional hire, Brisson -- who is a longtime friend of co-owner Mario Lemieux and who represents franchise cornerstone Sidney Crosby -- has a deep knowledge of the game and the people in it. Acquaintances have said in recent years that Brisson, who is based in Los Angeles, has seemed to be intrigued by the idea of running an NHL club.

■ Nashville assistant general manager Paul Fenton: He's a former NHL forward with an extensive background in scouting and player development. He likely would have particular appeal to a team looking to build through the draft, as the Predators have. Fenton, incidentally, replaced Shero as David Poile's assistant when Shero joined the Penguins.

■ Tampa Bay assistant general manager Julien BriseBois. He's played a major behind-the-scenes role in the Lightning's resurgence during the past few seasons. BriseBois focuses, in large part, on issues dealing with the NHL's labor agreement and salary cap, which is no surprise since he has a law degree and a Master's in business administration.

■ San Jose assistant general manager Joe Will, who has been with the Sharks since they entered the league, spent seven seasons as the Sharks' director of hockey operations. His primary duties include contract negotiations, scouting and salary-cap issues.

■ TV analyst Pierre McGuire: He's a former Penguins assistant coach and a popular dark horse candidate almost every time a front-office job opens, but McGuire also is one of Ray Shero's closest friends. That likely would be enough to prevent him from pursuing the position, even if the Penguins were interested.

Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@post-gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.


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