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4 Penguins GM Possibilities; 1 Checks All the Boxes



Pittsburgh Penguins GM, Emilie Castonguay, Steve greeley, john chayka

The Pittsburgh Penguins are in the first full week of their GM search. Or they are in the first full week of their hunt for a president of hockey operations who will hire the GM. FSG, the Penguins ownership group, ranged from non-committal to unsure of the process forward in a press conference last Friday.

It will likely be a few more days before actual candidates are known, but PHN has been digging through hockey contacts to find out who insiders feel is ready for the job, who deserves a second chance, and who is not.

Saturday, Dave Molinari published a preliminary name of six potential Penguins GM candidates, including Jason Botterill.

Today, we’ll add one rising star who is ready now, one who might be on her way, one dark horse, and one controversial candidate who could be perfect.

Checks All Boxes: Steve Greeley

First, the rising star is Dallas Stars’ director of player strategies, scouting, and development, Steve Greeley. His job is a combination of analytics and eye tests. At 41, he’s young enough to have the energy and vitality to oversee what could be a tumultuous few years.

And the few years after that could be not so fun, either.

Greeley has strong connections to Penguins coach Mike Sullivan. He was a Boston U. player and returned as an associate coach under one of Sullivan’s great friends, David Quinn. A league source told PHN that Greeley and Sullivan are also close.

Since FSG splashed a five-year extension on Sullivan last year and called him “terrific” last Friday, it certainly behooves them to hire a GM who could work well with the Penguins coach.

Greeley was also Jason Botterill’s assistant GM in Buffalo from 2017-20. A hockey source told PHN he was significantly involved in the 2018 draft when Buffalo took Rasmus Dahlin first overall and Mattias Samuelsson with the 32nd overall pick. Samuelsson has already played 109 NHL games.

Greeley was also involved in the Sabres 2017 draft, with Casey Mittelstadt taken eighth overall, Ukko-Pekka Luukonen 54th overall, and Jacob Bryson 99th.

Correction: Greeley started with Dallas in January 2022. He was not a part of the Stars A+ draft in 2021 as the original version noted.

In the same time frame, from 2017 through 2022, the Penguins received only seven NHL games from draft picks.

Greeley also was a scout for the Kings and worked in the Rangers’ front office. 

A combination of analytics and hockey savvy, with successful drafts and Boston blood, seems like a grand slam.

Controversial Option: John Chayka

Chayka was the NHL’s wunderkind when he became the GM of the Arizona Coyotes in 2016 at age 26. Arizona again became a playoff team after a few good drafts, a few good trades, free-agent signings, and hiring a good coach (Rick Tocchet).

However, perhaps Chayka’s youth caught up with him. He was caught speaking with the New Jersey Devils’ owners about a management position that may have included the New York Mets and lying to Coyotes ownership about it. He voided his contract days before the 2020 Stanley Cup bubble began and was also found to have hosted private workouts for prospects, a severe violation of NHL rules. 

The Devils’ owners were no longer interested, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman suspended Chayka for all of 2021 because of “conduct detrimental to the league.”

Arizona was docked a second-rounder in 2020 and a first-round pick in 2021 for the private workouts. However, Chayka held firm in leaving Arizona and blamed ownership for a sour relationship.

Chayka worked wonders in Arizona. Perhaps a little distance, more maturity, and forgiveness could land the Pittsburgh Penguins a wunderkind GM.

Buying Early: Emilie Castonguay

Within the next 10 years, there will be a female GM in the NHL. Perhaps before one is forced to use a sledgehammer on the glass ceiling, Emilie Castonguay will get a serious look from the Penguins.

She’s a former player agent who represented several big names, including 2020 top overall pick Alex Lafreniere and Penguins defenseman P.O Joseph, who raved about her to PHN last fall. Joseph called her “like a mom.”

After beginning her career in 2016, she clearly had a knack for landing top talent and was the only female NHLPA-certified agent. So, she probably has a little experience with the boys club, too.

She played college hockey at Niagara from 2005-09 and interned with Montreal Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier before attending law school. Colleague Kevin Allen wrote a profile story on her back in 2020.

In 2021, she became the Vancouver Canucks AGM under GM Patrik Allvin and President Jim Rutherford. She’s probably a year or three from being ready, but maybe not. Her skill sets already included being a good negotiator and capologist, and the Penguins could surely use a GM aware of the salary cap.

Castonguay also works with another woman who will be a GM candidate soon, Cammi Granato, who was also hired as a Canucks AGM last summer.

If Chayka can get a GM gig at 26, why not Castonguay, who is a decade older? If a person has the talent, they have it.

Dark Horse: Mike Gillis

Gillis was a finalist for the NHLPA directorship in March, so he’s still out there.

He was heavily criticized at the end of his tenure in Vancouver in 2014, especially for a few of his final trades. He dared trade top goalie Corey Schneider to New Jersey for the ninth overall pick in 2013.

Historical footnote: He used that to select Bo Horvat, which worked out pretty well.

However, he didn’t replace Schneider and ate some of Roberto Luongo’s 12-year deal when he dealt Luonog to Florida. In hindsight, we know Canucks ownership was heavily involved in signing Luongo for a dozen years, and Gillis did a good job of escaping from the deal as much as possible.

Prior to the end, however, Canucks fans were thrilled

Otherwise, Gillis’ track record was stellar. Division titles, playoff appearances, and a Stanley Cup Final. He worked to build a team around the aging Sedin twins. Sound familiar?

He’s been out of the GM game for eight seasons, so perhaps he’s a better candidate for president of hockey ops. However, as a GM, he did not lack aggressiveness, which the next Pittsburgh Penguins GM will need if the team hopes to undo the last couple of years of bad contracts and aging.