PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said Thursday he is “real close” to choosing the team's next head coach.
“The process is coming to an end,” said Rutherford, who has made a decision on one of eight candidates. “I'm still checking a few points with the lead candidate, but a decision is coming real soon.”
Rutherford declined to provide specifics regarding candidates or his choice. An announcement could be made within days provided details of a contract can be worked out.
Team and league sources said Rutherford's candidates included: former NHL coaches Ron Wilson and Marc Crawford; assistants Ulf Samuelsson (New York Rangers) and Bill Peters (Detroit); and Willie Desjardins, coach of Dallas' AHL affiliate.
John Hynes, coach of the Penguins' AHL affiliate, is the only candidate Rutherford has confirmed publicly.
John Stevens, a former Philadelphia coach and an assistant with Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles, had not been granted permission by the Kings to interview, the sources said.
Rick Tocchet, formerly a head coach with Tampa Bay, has interviewed for an assistant role with the Penguins, the sources said. Also, Rod Brind'Amour is a target for a role with the Penguins, the sources said.
Brind'Amour was the captain of Rutherford's 2006 Cup team with Carolina and he is the Hurricanes' assistant coach/player development.
Bill Guerin, the Penguins' previous player development coach, is now an assistant general manager with the team.
Rutherford fired former coach Dan Bylsma on June 6. He said then a replacement would be hired no later than July 1.
Interviews began Monday and Rutherford had determined his top choice between Wednesday night and Thursday morning, the sources said.
(Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.)