New Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon probably did not expect this process to be so hard. After Los Angles Kings Assistant GM Mike Futa joined Nashville Predators Assistant GM Paul Fenton in dropping out of the running to be the next Hurricanes GM early yesterday, two more names are off the list. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reached out to a potential candidate, New Jersey Devils Assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald, and found that he too had pulled out of the search. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun hears Pittsburgh Penguins Assistant GM Bill Guerin also declined to get involved in the process.
Fitzgerald, 49, had a long NHL career, lasting from 1988 to 2006, and then joined the Penguins front office in 2007. He has been the AGM of the Devils since 2015. The experienced hockey mind comes from a strong hockey bloodline and has two sons, Ryan and Casey, with NHL potential. There are many reasons why Fitzgerald would be a strong hire and he certainly seems to have a GM title in his future, but it won’t be with Carolina. Fitzgerald simply told Friedman “This is nothing against Tom Dundon. I am very happy in New Jersey and this is not the right time for me.” Guerin, 47, is in a similar boat. LeBrun states that he too felt the timing was wrong. Guerin himself was a successful NHLer for nearly 20 years and has been with the Penguins organization since 2009, having been promoted to AGM in 2014. Many see Guerin as the heir apparent to 69-year-old Pens GM Jim Rutherford.
These continued rejections have changed Dundon’s frame of mind for his hunt for Ron Francis’ replacement. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports this morning that the team is “shifting gears” and will wait until the off-season to continue their search. LeBrun speculated that this may change the “timing is wrong” feeling from some of these candidates. However, of the three remaining names on the short list reported by Friedman, only one – Buffalo’s Steve Greeley – is currently employed by an NHL team other than Carolina, while the other two candidates are ’Canes Assistant GM Mike Vellucci and former Canucks executive Laurence Gilman. More than anything, the pause could be Dundon re-thinking the whole situation. It certainly hasn’t been a smooth process so far for the NHL’s newest owner.