Latest Penguins Buzz

Insider Only Industry Buzz: What Penguins do or don’t do with Mike Sullivan contract situation will tell a lot

Latest Penguins Buzz

Scuttlebutt on Mike Sullivan’s Future in Pittsburgh & Will the 2013 Extension for Dan Bylsma have any weight on ownership’s willingness or lack their of to extend Mike Sullivan before the 2019-2020 opener?

Of all the head scratching things Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said at Thursday’s season ending press conference, Rutherford saying he’s going to take some time in the evaluation process of what went wrong this season before coming to any decisions is the smartest route he can take with lots of time on his side and a pivotal decision or two to be made with this core .

“We are still a bit emotional with how this ended,” said Rutherford on Thursday. “The best thing for me is to take a little time to think through this. Some big decisions will be made.”

What is the Penguins No. 1 off-season priority?

Developing an Identity that has personnel decisions matching up with the coaches philosophy for the 2019-2020 season tops the list.

An early consensus among evaluators points to the Coach and General Manager getting on the same page of what type of team they want to be from a playing style standpoint and that strategy being implemented with off-season moves that fit how the coach wants to play next season.

The biggest question of all — how married is Jim Rutherford and ownership to Mike Sullivan?–

Mike Sullivan and Jim Rutherford were each adamant this week that their relationship is great. That is true on a personal level, but with lots of rumblings in the organization and obvious signs over the last year that the two are not aligned with how this team needs to play or on some of the personnel, executives around the league strongly contend the proof where this relationship really stands will be seen whether Mike Sullivan receives an extension this summer or not.

Sullivan’s contract situation has piqued the interest of NHL executives.

Not extending a 2-time Stanley Cup Winner in Sullivan by at least one year to provide some sort of security will lead to a tenuous situation and a lot of outside noise, exec’s say.

Sullivan’s current deal which pays him close to $3 million per season, expires after the 2019-2020. If Sullivan was on the open market this summer, his market would easily be in the $5 million a season range for the two-time Stanley Cup winner.

Among the two, Rutherford has all the power moving forward within the organization by being aligned with the right people.

Signed through the 2021-2022 season, Rutherford is most importantly for his sake, 100% aligned with Team President David Morehouse who is the primary voice that matters when it comes to swaying owners Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux on any big decision.

After the GM change in 2014, Morehouse has become a major power player in hockey decisions over the last five years, something he aggressively sought that summer.

With the honeymoon period over for Mike Sullivan, imagine Sullivan not getting extended this summer and the Penguins get off to a slow start with the likes of Peter Laviollete and Paul Maurice, both with close ties to Jim Rutherford, being available if the Predators and Jets make coaching changes this off-season.

The noise will be loud, very loud and what’s fascinating with the Sullivan contract situation is whether ownership will be timid from what happened in 2013 if Rutherford even comes to them before the season seeking to extend Sullivan, which some exec’s Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

After the Penguins were swept by the Boston Bruins in 2013 Conference Finals, former Penguins GM Ray Shero did not feel comfortable bringing Dan Bylsma back with just one year left on his contract and his number one priority in the immediate aftermath of getting swept WAS EXTENDING BYLSMA.

Just four days after the embarrassing sweep to the Bruins where the Penguins managed 2 goals, Bylsma officially received a two-year extension.

“It’s important to me,” Shero said of extending Bylsma on June 12, 2013. “Making the statement that I believe in Dan Bylsma. I have a very good coach that I want to continue to work with.”

This was a very unpopular move at the time with the four game sweep in 2013 coinciding with the Round 1 debacle vs the Flyers the year before, but here was Shero and the organization making the first priority of the 2013 off-season to eliminate a potential distraction for the 13-14 season and show their belief in Bylsma who won a Stanley Cup in 09 by being the right coach at the right time for a short-period.

“From Mario and Ron’s standpoint, they were 100% supportive,” said Shero.

The decision obviously backfired for Penguin ownership. There was immediate regret a year later from ownership that a coaching change wasn’t made to hire Jacques Martin as head coach, something owner Mario Lemieux pr Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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