Maybe it was the calm before the storm, but the Wild's search for a general manager is heating up.
With the help of a committee that includes former Wild CEO Jac Sperling, owner Craig Leipold has weeded down a list of nearly 30 applicants to a handful of men who bring vastly different perspectives to the job, multiple league and team sources say.
The short list includes Pittsburgh Penguins assistant GM Chuck Fletcher, TSN and NBC color analyst Pierre McGuire, longtime NHL GM and coach Pat Quinn, Nashville Predators assistant GM Paul Fenton and Wild acting GM Tom Lynn.
While other unidentified candidates possibly could emerge, sources say the two considered frontrunners have interviews lined up.
Fletcher, 41, is expected to be in town later this week, while it's believed McGuire, 47, will interview today.
Sources say the Wild called a number of candidates over the weekend to inform them they won't be interviewed. Contrary to reports, the Wild is not interviewing former Toronto Maple Leafs GM John Ferguson.
And, sources say, Minneapolis-based player agent Neil Sheehy, another reported candidate, e-mailed his clients 10 days ago informing them that he was not interested in leaving his growing business for the Wild GM post.
After firing Doug Risebrough, Leipold split candidates into different categories.
There were the traditional candidates such as Quinn, Doug MacLean and Jay Feaster; the bright, young stars like Fletcher and Fenton; and media types like McGuire.
After talking to scores of executives around the league, Leipold and Sperling narrowed those lists.
Fletcher, the son of longtime NHL executive Cliff Fletcher, has been around the sport since he was a child. He has 16 years of experience with Florida, Anaheim and Pittsburgh, and he's only 41, working alongside some of the NHL's most respected executives -- Bill Torrey, Bobby Clarke, Bryan Murray, Brian Burke and now Ray Shero.
He is a rarity because he negotiates contracts, such as the $58 million Pavel Bure deal in Florida, and helps scout and draft players. It's a team effort, obviously, but some of the best include Ed Jovanovski, Rob Niedermayer, Rhett Warrener, Kristian Huselius, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Joffrey Lupul and Bobby Ryan.
Fletcher played a huge part in the Panthers' 1993 expansion draft that turned into the core (John Vanbiesbrouck, Scott Mellanby, Brian Skrudland, Tom Fitzgerald and Bill Lindsay, the most notables) of Florida's 1996 run to the Stanley Cup Finals.
He also has been to the Finals with Anaheim and Pittsburgh. "It's his time to be a GM," Murray, now Ottawa's GM, said Monday from the world championships in Switzerland. "He's an intelligent guy. ... The most important thing to being a GM is your people skills, and he's real classy in that regard and has earned the respect of the players because of his treatment of them."
By choosing Fletcher or Fenton, Leipold would be looking at the blueprint of successful teams such as Boston (Peter Chiarelli), Pittsburgh (Shero) and Columbus (Scott Howson), who hired young assistant GMs.
McGuire is an intriguing choice and would be following the blueprint set by St. Louis (John Davidson) and Chicago (Dale Tallon), which took men from the broadcast booth to run their franchises.
McGuire won two Stanley Cups as an assistant coach alongside Scotty Bowman in Pittsburgh in 1991 and 1992. He also was head coach and assistant GM of the Hartford Whalers and a pro scout and assistant coach in Ottawa.
Since 1995, he has been in the broadcast booth and is considered one of the most passionate, well-spoken broadcasters in the NHL. He has friends everywhere entrenched in teams and has seen more NHL players and prospects close up than most team personnel have.
"Pierre's a hard worker, and in such a 24-7 job, you need to be strong in a lot of areas," Bowman said. "You've got to have enthusiasm and a connection is what it's all about. Pierre's got that."Veilleux hires agent
Free-agent winger Stephane Veilleux, who represented himself in negotiations last summer, has hired agent Allan Walsh.
"Being an unrestricted free agent, you can't really do it by yourself," Veilleux said. "Agents are more involved and know the business more than I do. It's important for my career to be represented July 1 by someone."