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Tampa Bay Lightning could hire GM before CEO

The Lightning's searches for a CEO and a general manager seem to be on parallel paths. That may seem strange given owner Jeff Vinik's declaration the CEO will hire the GM.

But interviewing candidates for both jobs gives the organization logistical flexibility.

Best-case scenario, a new CEO hits the ground running with a vetted short list of GM candidates from which to pick.

But as a precaution, the team also must be prepared to hire a general manager without a CEO in place. That's not ideal, because the GM will answer to the CEO. But the general manager must plan for the June 25-26 draft, and the timing for hiring a CEO can be flexible if Vinik's choice has personal obligations that keep him from immediately coming on board or perhaps obligations to a current employer.

The Lightning has been tight-lipped about its searches.

Former Senators CEO Roy Mlakar is believed in the mix for the CEO gig. Former Lightning chief operating officer Sean Henry also might be considered, as might former Lightning president Ron Campbell. Tod Leiweke, CEO of the NFL's Seahawks and rumored to be part of the conversation, has said he is not a candidate, but his name keeps popping pop.

As for general managers, former Wild GM Doug Risebrough is interested. It is believed Red Wings vice president Steve Yzerman and Maple Leafs assistant GM Dave Nonis have been contacted, and perhaps Pierre McGuire, a television analyst for NBC and Canada's TSN, and a former assistant GM with the old Whalers.

Not interested is former Flyers GM Bobby Clarke, who said the Lightning should think young when hiring a general manager.

"Don't keep going back to the guys who have been with two, three, four teams," said Clarke, 60, who spent 22 seasons as GM of the Flyers, North Stars and Panthers. "It's time for organizations like Tampa to get some young guys in there who are trained and ready to go and ready to spend the 24-hours-a-day, 12-months-of-the-year working on it, because that's what it takes."

Nonis, 43, was the Canucks' GM for four years. Yzerman, 45, was executive director of Canada's gold-medal-winning Olympic team. McGuire, 48, has been a radio and television analyst for 13 years but won Stanley Cups as a scout and an assistant coach with the Penguins in 1991 and '92. Risebrough, 56, also was general manager of the Flames.

For whomever is hired, Clarke said, the priority is to "come in and get it stable. The last owner­ship for Tampa Bay was so uncertain, how can you expect the players and their families to commit to an organization when it's always in turmoil?"

He said the Lightning has an attractive upside: "Absolutely. Tampa's got one of the best forwards in the game in Steven Stamkos, and they've got good players on that team.

"For me, it's a team that would be perfect for a young guy to come in. You can find an older guy if you want, but I don't see that as being the right thing for an organization like Tampa. They need to get somebody in there to give them a personality and a commitment to help them win."

Either before or after hiring a CEO.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Lightning could hire GM before CEO 05/08/10 [Last modified: Saturday, May 8, 2010 10:59pm]

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