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Rossi: With 2 assistants ready for GM roles, Pens' Shero has options

| Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013, 8:34 p.m.

Ray Shero is one of two men to serve as Penguins general manager since 1989.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are on their third general manager since entering the NHL in 2000.

Maybe their latest hire is a charm. If not, history will surely remember Jarmo Kekalainen, anyway.

Never before has the NHL had a European-born general manager, and it is about time that Plexiglas ceiling shattered.

It may be about time for Shero to replenish a deep front-office system, too.

Sooner rather than later he will have no choice.

Already, one of his former top assistants is running a club. Chuck Fletcher, Shero's first No. 2 with the Penguins, has served as Minnesota Wild general manager since May 2009.

Upon Fletcher's departure, Shero promoted Jason Botterill to assistant general manager.

Tom Fitzgerald, who has held many roles within the organization, has served as assistant to the general manager since the 2009-10 season.

Any franchise with a future general manager opening would be foolish not to consider Botterill or Fitzgerald. Botterill has grown from a salary-cap expert to an executive with a sharp scouting eye and keen understanding of how to manage people. He is connected, respected and smart enough to stay with the Penguins until the right job presents itself.

Fitzgerald, as one would expect of a former NHL captain, knows a little bit about everything that goes on throughout the organization. He is equally measured and relentless, and his area of expertise is looking as though it will be development. His personality will inject life into an organization some day.

The Penguins have a pipeline of worthy successors if Botterill or Fitzgerald should leave.

Dan MacKinnon, director of player personnel and formerly head pro scout, has the look of an assistant general manager-in-waiting. Randy Sexton, assistant director of amateur scouting, and Don Waddell, a pro scout, are both former NHL general managers.

Keep an eye on Bill Guerin, too.

Yes, that Guerin.

He recently moved his family to Pittsburgh from Long Island and not just because he fell for the people here upon arriving in March 2009.

Guerin, who spent parts of his final two playing years with the Penguins, is in his second season as player development coach — and he may be on the same track as Fitzgerald, who spent two seasons as director of player development before his promotion.

Guerin is a smart bet to make a meteoric rise within the Penguins' hockey operations ranks.

Botterill and Fitzgerald would be wise bets for clubs this summer.

The Penguins, though, will continue to maintain the status quo at the very top.

Shero might not last 17 years like his predecessor, Craig Patrick.

Then again, given his track record these first seven seasons, he just might.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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