April 21, 2024

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Penguins shoot Ron Heckstall, Brian Burke and Chris Pryor: What went wrong and what’s next

The team announced Friday that the Penguins have fired general manager Ron Heckstall, chief of hockey operations Brian Burke and assistant general manager Chris Pryor. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Hextall and Burke were hired on February 9, 2021 — less than two weeks after the shock resignation of former GM Jim Rutherford. Burke was the franchise’s first president of hockey operations.
  • Their best streak of 16 consecutive playoff games ended this season.
  • Hextall is the first Penguins GM since Tony Esposito (April 14, 1988 – December 5, 1989) not to win a Stanley Cup.
  • Pittsburgh hired Prior in 2021 as Director of Player Personnel.

What happened

Hextall and Burke didn’t seem to fit stylistically when they were hired, but the Penguins were desperate for in-season hires to replace Rutherford early during the COVID-19-shortened season. Hextall’s patient/receptive-focused approach and Burke’s boisterousness contrasted with Rutherford’s aggressive/inclusive philosophy and congenial demeanors.

Go deeper

Yohe: Ron Heckstall, after all, didn’t have the backbone of a GM job for the Penguins

Previous owners (Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle) hired to keep the Penguins in trophy contention while also building for the future, Hextall and Burke have been through several deals and signings that failed to come out, inconsistency and injuries to the shooting position and roof issues Salary. Fenway Sports Group (FSG) purchased the Penguins midway through the tandem’s first full management season (2021-22).

What then

The Penguins don’t have a CEO, so it’s not clear who will oversee the search for a CEO. It’s also unclear if they will look to hire another president of hockey operations or return to having the next general manager oversee the hockey division. Burke’s role was never explicitly specified, and he seemed to serve more as an advisor to Hextall.

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FSG is still relatively new to hockey, although it has overseen system changes with its other big sports properties – baseball’s Boston Red Sox and Premier League’s Liverpool Football Club. FSG will likely want to recruit a new manager/management team no later than the NHL Draft in late June.


training effect

Coach Mike Sullivan is under contract through the 2026-27 season after signing a three-year extension last summer. A two-time Trophy winner and winningest coach in franchise history, Sullivan has the support of the Penguins’ two most influential players – captain Sidney Crosby and first choice Evgeni Malkin.

A new manager/management team will likely give Sullivan at least next season to prove he’s their man behind the bench. Associate coach Todd Rearden and assistant coach Mike Vellucci signed an extension last summer that expires after the 2023-24 season.

what are they saying

“I am grateful for the opportunity to work in such a passionate sports city,” Burke said he said on Twitter. “Thank you to FSG, Mario Lemieux, David Morehouse, the management and coaches, and especially our great group of players. I wish the Penguins and their amazing fan base all the best in the future.”

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(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)