True North’s eventual purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers is set to come with big changes to the front office staff and the first step in that process is reportedly set to happen.
ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported that general manager Rick Dudley will not be kept on in that position when the team moves to Winnipeg. The Star Tribune’s Michael Russo followed that up finding out that Dudley’s contract, which runs for the next four years, will be bought out and paid over the next eight years and puts Dudley back on the market as a free agent of sorts for other organizations.
On Sunday morning, True North confirmed these reports and did not say who would be representing the team at the GM meetings on Wednesday in Boston at the Stanley Cup finals.
The decision by True North to go away from Dudley isn’t too shocking as this is customary for owners to want their own people on the job, but considering Dudley’s track record in the NHL and his ability in helping get the Thrashers on the road to recovery this past season it’s a curious choice nonetheless for the new owners. Of course, they may already have a guy they’re counting on to step in and are familiar with in the form of Blackhawks assistant GM Kevin Cheveldayoff.
We speculated here the other day about True North’s interest in Cheveldayoff and according to Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun, he very well could be the man they’re after as both True North’s Mark Chipman and Craig Heisinger have ties to him already.
Both Chipman and Heisinger have a relationship with Cheveldayoff that dates back to the International Hockey League and Heisinger was actually the equipment manager for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League when Cheveldayoff was playing junior hockey.
Cheveldayoff’s record with the Chicago Wolves in the AHL is outstanding and the added bonus of that being the Thrashers minor league team helps add to the allure as he’d have a great idea already of what he’s working with. The catch here with figuring out who the GM is in Winnipeg ties into what happens with other members of the organization from the front office to the scouts to the coaches and on down to the players. These are key choices for the fledgling ownership group and they have to do what’s right right off the bat. Making bad decisions now means the team gets off on the wrong foot and then things can get ugly moving into the future.
While losing Dudley can be seen as questionable, as long as they’re bringing in other good, smart people they’ll be all right. Of course, if and when Dudley moves on to another position and if he has great success there people will be keeping close tabs on how Winnipeg does with the brain trust they’ve chosen.