Pittsburgh Penguins significantly reshaped their front office Tuesday, appointing Brian Burke as head of hockey operations and Ron Hextal as the new general manager for the team.
“We feel incredibly fortunate to bring in two respected executives with a combined experience of over 50 years of experience managing the NHL,” said Penguins President and CEO David Morehouse, who Burke will follow.
Patrick Alvin, who became the Penguins’ interim general manager when Jim Rutherford resigned on January 27 due to personal reasons, will return to his role as GM’s assistant.
Hextall, 56, became the opening favorite for general manager during the second round of interviews with the Penguins. Other executives under consideration include Colorado Avalanche assistant GM Chris MacFarland, and Boston Bruins’ team manager John Ferguson Jr. Former Toronto Maple Leafs assistant GM Mark Hunter, former GM Vancouver Canucks, Mike Gillis, and former NHL player and current NHL network analyst Kevin Wickes.
Hextall was the general manager of the competing Philadelphia Flyers for four seasons (2014-18) and was a long-term member of the front office at the Los Angeles Kings, as an assistant general manager and a consultant. He is credited with drafting and developing the secondary league system well for both organizations.
He played 608 matches as an NHL goalkeeper, winning the Vezina Cup as best goalkeeper and Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP in the Flyers’ final match in 1986-87.
While it was wildly rumored that Hextall is a hybrid of a Penguins job, Burke’s employment shocked the hockey world. The 65-year-old had pursued the 31-year-old as an NHL executive with a featured role in covering Sportsnet’s NHL in Canada, as one of the most famous commentators.
Burke previously held the position of General Manager for Hartford Whalers, Canucks, Anaheim Ducks, and Maple Leafs. He was most recently as Director of Hockey Operations for Calgary Flames until April 2018. He made the Ducks to become the Stanley Cup Champion in 2006-07.
“For me, Pittsburgh is a breathtaking destination for any GM or head of hockey operations,” Burke said. “I am very excited about this opportunity. The Penguins are a storey franchise with a great ownership in Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle, and Pittsburgh is just a great hockey town. I and Ron Hextal are so lucky. We can’t wait to get started.”
Penguins 5-5-1 this season by 0.500 percentage points. Turning the team into a contender for the Stanley Cup again is seen as a challenge. Its core is astrology – Sydney Crosby (33), Evgeny Malkin (34) and Chris Letang (33) – Aging after the prime numbers. The team had no choice from the first round this season and had a potential pipeline at number 31 in recent ESPN Rankings.
“If you don’t have a job, it’s all desirable,” an NHL general manager told ESPN. “The only potential problem could be if the property is unstable. But that is not the case in Pittsburgh. So it’s a very desirable job.”