There is no doubt the Pittsburgh Penguins front office jobs were highly sought after given the reputation, success, resources, and expectations. Brian Burke sounded downright giddy at the thought of working for the Penguins, while he and new general manager Ron Hextall said all the right things at their introductory press conferences on Tuesday.
But for as exciting as this job might be, it is not going to be a particularly easy job. It might even be pretty daunting when you dig below the surface of a couple of superstars and recent championships.
The three best players (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang) are in their mid-30s and on the downside of their careers, while two of them will have their contracts expire after next season in a league where the salary cap is going to remain pretty stagnant.
The farm system and draft pick pool (at least for this upcoming class) has been completely gutted with little long-term help on the immediate horizon.
There are some sketchy long-term contracts on the books that will almost certainly need to be addressed in one form or another.
In short, there are some challenges. So let us take a look at the biggest issues the Burke-Hextall team are going to have to tackle.
The Farm System
This is probably the biggest one, and it is the one area where I am most optimistic about Hextall because this is where he thrived with Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Building a long-term, stable talent pool that kept pumping out NHL quality players.
There is no question he had some flaws with the Flyers that ultimately led to his dismissal, but he managed to rebuild the farm system and the team as a whole without having to send it completely into the tank for an extended period of time. He stockpiled draft picks while still managing to put — for the most part — a competitive NHL team on the ice.