PITTSBURGH (AP) — Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins are turning to a former rival to help them keep the Stanley Cup window open for Sidney Crosby and company. The team hired former Philadelphia Flyer goaltender and general manager Ron Hextall as the team’s general manager on Tuesday.
Hextall replaces Jim Rutherford, who resigned abruptly last month. The Penguins also hired longtime league executive Brian Burke as director of hockey operations.
The hires come less than two weeks after Rutherford, who built a roster around longtime captain Crosby that brought consecutive Stanley Cups to Pittsburgh in 2016 and 2017, stepped down with six months left on his contract, saying only “it was time.”
The 56-year-old Hextall won 240 games during his 13-year career, 11 of which came in Philadelphia, where the Flyers frequently battled Lemieux — now Pittsburgh’s co-owner — and the Penguins for bragging rights. Hextall retired in 1999 and has spent most of the last two decades as a league executive, including a four-year stint as general manager of the Flyers.
“It’s an honor to be joining the Pittsburgh Penguins — an organization well-known for its excellence on and off the ice,” Hextall said in a statement. “I look forward to working with ownership, Brian and the entire organization toward the ultimate goal of bringing another Stanley Cup to Pittsburgh.”
Burke, 65, has spent more than 30 years in management and was the general manager of the Anaheim Ducks when the franchise captured the Stanley Cup in 2007.
“We feel incredibly lucky to bring in two highly respected executives with a combined 50-plus years of NHL management experience,” Penguins president and CEO David Morehouse said in a statement. “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 and Burke take over a club that still feels it is among the NHL’s elite, even with Crosby, former Hart Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang all in their mid-30s. Pittsburgh is currently in fifth place in the crowded East Division with a 5-5-1 record (11 points) through 11 games.
The Penguins are in the midst of an extended layoff due to a COVID-19 outbreak in New Jersey.
Patrik Allvin, who served as interim general manager following Rutherford’s exit, will stay on as an assistant general manager under Hextall.