From Sunday to Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Penguins moved at light speed to fill their vacant GM position and did so with former Philadelphia Flyers GM Ron Hextall on Tuesday afternoon. In the process, the team also created a new position for former NHL GM Brian Burke as the Director of Hockey Operations.
According to the Penguins press release, Hextall will oversee the day-to-day operations and report to Burke, who will serve as Hextall’s primary advisor. The Penguins release noted that Burke will report to Penguins president David Morehouse.
“We feel incredibly lucky to bring in two highly-respected executives with a combined 50-plus years of NHL management experience,” Morehouse said. “Ron and Brian are well-known in the hockey world as fierce competitors with championship pedigrees. They’re very well-connected and experienced in all aspects of the game. They are both excited to get to work here in Pittsburgh, blending their skills and building on our long tradition of success.”
Hextall was the Philadelphia GM from May 2014 to November 2018. He oversaw the organization revitalization, which culminated in last season’s Metro Division run and playoff appearence with largely the roster which Hextall assembled.
“It’s an honor to be joining the Pittsburgh Penguins – an organization well-known for its excellence on and off the ice,” Hextall said. “I look forward to working with ownership, Brian and the entire organization toward the ultimate goal of bringing another Stanley Cup to Pittsburgh.”
Hextall’s father played for the Penguins in the early 1970s, and Hextall grew up in Pittsburgh before establishing his career with the Philadelphia Flyers.
In his four-plus years, Hextall only made 18 trades, which may pale in comparison to the wheeling and dealing of former Penguins GM Jim Rutherford, but the results steadily improved.
PHN reported on Sunday night that Hextall was the favorite, but the speed at which the Penguins moved echoed what sources close to Penguins owner Mario Lemieux told this outlet.
“He likes the way Hextall built Philly back up,” said a source.
Sources also said Lemieux was “in the bunker” figuring out a new path for the organization. That obviouly meant creating a buffer and additional hockey advisement between the GM and Morehouse.
Burke, 65, was the surprise choice for the new role. He is a Harvard Law School graduate, spent 31 years as an NHL executive and won the Stanley Cup as general manager of the Anaheim Ducks in 2006-07. He also served as general manager of the Hartford Whalers and the Canucks; president and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs; and president of hockey operations for the Calgary Flames.
Burke famously demanded more “truculence” from his Toronto Maple Leafs squad. He is the Toronto GM who acquired Phil Kessel from the Boston Bruins.
Burke is not always a soft touch and figures to be a strong presence in the Penguins heirarchy and organization which is staring at its future as superstars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang reach their mid-30s.
Patrik Allvin, who became interim-GM of the Penguins after Rutherford resigned on Jan. 27, will resume his role as assistant general manager under Hextall and Burke.
Hextall has a long history of successful drafting an player development. He cut his teeth as a scout and served in the Philadelphia personnel department from 1999-2006. He was the LA Kings AGM, then the assistant GM of the Flyers in 2013-14 and most recently returned to LA as a part-time advisor.
During his time as GM of the Flyers, the team drafted Carter Hart, Travis Konecny, Igor Provorov, Joel Farabee, Nolan Patrick, Travis Sanheim, Oskar Lindblom and Nicolas Aube-Kubel. In total, 19 Hextall selections made it to the NHL.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are making Hextall, Burke and Morehouse available at 3 p.m. EST.