Penguins coaching search will move at Rutherford's pace

Jim Rutherford is going to have a pretty hectic week.

Today, he will begin interviewing candidates to be the Penguins’ next coach.

And when Rutherford, the team’s general manager, isn’t talking with those who hope to move into Dan Bylsma’s old office, he will meet with members of his hockey-operations staff to discuss possible personnel moves, the upcoming NHL draft and the free-agent signing period that begins July 1.

But one issue that won’t consume any of Rutherford’s time or energy is the compliance-buyout period that begins today and runs through June 30, because those buyouts are a tool to which he doesn’t anticipate turning.

“I do not expect to use them,” Rutherford said Sunday.

Every NHL club was given two compliance buyouts to be used after the 2012-13 and/or 2013-14 seasons. They are like conventional buyouts, in that players receive one-third or two-thirds of the remaining value of their contract, spread over twice the term remaining on the deal, except that they do not count against a team’s salary-cap hit.

However, only players signed on or before Sept. 15, 2012 qualify for a compliance buyout. Half of the 14 Penguins under contract for 2014-15 — forwards Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis and Craig Adams, defensemen Kris Letang and Rob Scuderi and goalie Jeff Zatkoff — are not eligible.

The Penguins have about $55.1 million committed to those 14 players for next season. Although the cap ceiling has not been set, it is projected to be about $71 million.

The Penguins’ cap situation could be altered by trades, and Rutherford said officials from other clubs approached him about potential deals when the NHL’s GMs met Wednesday in New York.

Some of those offers presumably will be discussed when Rutherford sits down with staff members such as associate GM Jason Botterill and assistant GMs Tom Fitzgerald and Bill Guerin this week.

Those sessions will be shoehorned around the “two or three” coaching interviews Rutherford anticipates conducting “for the next few days.”

Some coaching interviews will be done over the phone, he said, and others will take place in person.

And while Rutherford said he “won’t be the only one [from the Penguins] in the interviews,” he will have sole responsibility for choosing the next coach.

“There will be lots of people who will have input,” he said. “But when it gets to the end, someone has to make the decision.”

John Hynes, coach of the Penguins’ American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre for the past four seasons, is the only candidate Rutherford has publicly identified. Los Angeles assistant coach John Stevens also seems likely to receive strong consideration if he expresses interest in the position.

When he was hired June 6, Rutherford said he had two “short lists” — one bearing six names, the other three — of attractive candidates for the job, and reiterated Sunday that he believes Bylsma’s replacement will come from one of them.

“I’m still zeroing in on my original short list,” he said.

Still, Rutherford acknowledged that the pool of coaching candidates has expanded in the past week or so.

“My list of names has grown because I get more and more calls from associates who are recommending people or the coaches themselves contacting me,” he said.

Rutherford said applicants do not have to meet a rigid set of standards such as having played or coached in the NHL to receive consideration. He cited Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper as an example of someone who hadn’t worked in the league in any capacity previously but who has been successful as a coach.

When he first discussed the coaching vacancy, Rutherford said he didn’t feel compelled to have one in place before the draft June 27-28 in Philadelphia, but hoped to hire one before the start of free agency.

That basic time frame remains in place, he said, although it is not firm.

“If I’m comfortable with somebody and it’s before the draft, that would be even better,” he said. “It would be a bonus if it’s before the draft.

“But we have to get a coach who’s a good fit for the Penguins. If I’m not comfortable [with a coach] by July 1, I’m not going to hire someone just to hire someone.”

Dave Molinari: and Twitter @MolinariPG.

First Published June 15, 2014 11:26 PM

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