The Pittsburgh Penguins search for a new GM is leaving no stone unturned and poking around at least a couple of unconventional candidates. Sources with knowledge of the GM search indicated to Pittsburgh Hockey Now that NHL Network analyst and former NHL goalie Kevin Weekes will interview with the Penguins for the GM position and is one of the first to do so.
Sources with knowledge of the process also indicated that player agent from the high-powered agency CAA and Pittsburgh native Donald “Dee” Rizzo is a likely candidate, too. However, we could not yet confirm an interview or scheduled interview.
Per President David Morehouse, the Penguins search committee consists of only Morehouse and owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle.
Separate team sources indicated Lemieux is fully engaged in the process.
“He’s in the bunker,” said a source.
Weekes previously interviewed for the Florida Panthers job before the club hired Columbus AGM Bill Zito. The gregarious goalie played 348 games over his 11-year career. In 2009, Weekes became the first black NHL analyst and would become the first black NHL general manager.
Brett Peterson became the first black NHL executive when Florida hired him as assistant GM under Zito.
Rizzo, 59, could follow previous sports agents’ path, including former Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis, who helmed Vancouver from 2008 to 2014.
Gillis is also known to have applied for the Penguins’ vacant GM position.
Rizzo’s personal relationships with Penguins organization figures and throughout hockey are seen as a positive asset for his candidacy. According to a 2013 feature story in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Rizzo scouted Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
He was instrumental in bringing both superstars to CAA. A hallmark for Rizzo is earning trust among young players and the hockey community. That is why one source pointed his way as a qualified candidate.
“Everybody is an old friend,” is how an industry source described Rizzo.
Jim Rutherford vacated the Penguins GM position on Jan. 27 in an abrupt departure. Rutherford informed Morehouse of his intention on Tuesday evening, Jan. 26, met with staff the following morning to sign defenseman Yannick Weber, then confirmed his resignation to Morehouse.
The Penguins named Patrick Allvin, who was promoted to assistant general manager in October, as the interim GM. He is also a candidate for the position.
The Penguins are 5-4-1 and have not played since Monday because the NHL postponed their scheduled games against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday and Thursday after the league placed 14 New Jersey players in the NHL COVID protocols.