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Penguins GM Search: Here are Six Candidates to Succeed Hextall



Pittsburgh Penguins GM search, Jason Botterill

It wasn’t so long ago that PPG Paints Arena was a hothouse for growing promising hockey executives.

During Ray Shero’s tenure as GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins, his assistants included Jason Botterill, Tom Fitzgerald, and Bill Guerin, all of whom went on to become GMs elsewhere. He also hired Patrik Allvin, now GM in Vancouver, as a scout and promoted him to director of European scouting.

If any of those guys still were in the organization, replacing Ron Hextall probably would be pretty easy. The chosen one simply would have to move his possessions down the hall to a larger office.

Trouble is, Fitzgerald, Guerin, and Allvin all seem quite content in their current positions — they’re overseeing things in New Jersey, Minnesota, and Vancouver, respectively — and it’s pretty much inconceivable that Fenway Sports Group officials would be able to convince any of them to return here.

Botterill has a pretty nice job, too. After a stint as GM in Buffalo, he signed on as GM Ron Francis’ assistant in Seattle, where they have constructed a team that got into the playoffs in just its second year of existence.

This will be the first time FSG has hired a GM since acquiring the Penguins, so there’s no way of being certain what qualities its decision-makers will emphasize in Hextall’s successor.

Still, there are some people who seem worthy of at least cursory consideration … and probably a lot more than that. Here’s a look at them, listed alphabetically:

Jason Botterill

If there’s an early leader in the race to replace Hextall, it probably should be Botterill.

He has GM experience, is familiar with the organization and possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of the NHL’s salary-cap system.

Botterill was in charge in Buffalo when the Sabres drafted the likes of Rasmus Dahlin, Mattias Samuelsson, Dylan Cozens, Casey Mittlestadt, and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. He also traded for Tage Thompson, who enters Buffalo’s regular-season finale tonight with 47 goals.

It’s worth noting that Botterill was absolutely skewered by the press and public for that deal, which sent Ryan O’Reilly to St. Louis for Thompson, two other players, a lottery-protected first-round draft choice, and a second-round pick.

There probably aren’t a lot of people on the Niagara Frontier still complaining about that deal.

Botterill was a finalist for the GM job in San Jose that ultimately went to former Sharks player Mike Grier last summer. It shouldn’t be long before he gets another opportunity to run a team.

Laurence Gilman

Now the senior vice president of Toronto’s top farm team after serving as an assistant GM for the Maple Leafs for three years, Gilman also has worked in the front offices of Winnipeg/Phoenix and Vancouver.

The NHL reportedly consulted him when trying to put together rules covering Las Vegas’ entry into the league as an expansion team in 2017.

He was considered to be a serious candidate for the Canucks job that went to Allvin.

Paul Krepelka

Krepelka made the jump from representing players to overseeing them, having spent a couple of decades as an agent before moving into the Carolina front office in 2018.

Following two years with the Hurricanes, another ex-agent — Panthers GM Bill Zito — hired him as an assistant GM in Florida, a position he still holds.

Krepelka played college hockey at Princeton and was involved in the founding of the Orr Hockey Group.

Dan MacKinnon

MacKinnon, like Botterill, has some roots in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization.

Shero brought him from Nashville as a scout after replacing Craig Patrick as GM in 2006, and MacKinnon went on to serve as director of pro scouting and director of player personnel before following Shero to New Jersey in 2016.

He filled that role for three seasons before being promoted to assistant GM and senior vice president of hockey operations.

Ryan Martin

Martin, an assistant GM with the New York Rangers. has worked in just about every facet of the game during his career in New York and Detroit.

Although he has never been a GM at this level, Martin is believed to have experience negotiating contracts, which certainly would be an asset.

Joe Will

Will has been with San Jose since 1990 and currently serves as an assistant GM.

He was the Sharks’ director of scouting for his first seven years and later had a seven-year stint as director of hockey operations.

Will served as interim GM after Doug Wilson stepped down from the position in 2022, but the permanent job eventually went to Grier.