Blackhawks to interview general manager candidates starting this week, make hire by March

The Hawks’ new GM will be the highest-ranking person in their hockey operations department — with no president above him — and report directly to CEO Danny Wirtz, according to an update from the team Wednesday.

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Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz (left) will lead the GM interview process, and the chosen GM will report directly to him.

Chicago Blackhawks file photo

DETROIT — The Blackhawks’ search for a permanent general manager has entered the action stage.

Interviews with candidates for the GM position will begin this week, and the chosen candidate will be hired and in place before the NHL trade deadline on March 21, Hawks CEO Danny Wirtz said as part of a sweeping update provided Wednesday.

“We are looking to hire the best strategic mind who can build and develop a hockey operations leadership team that will be best-in-class across professional sports,” Wirtz said in a statement.

“This new leader will create a team environment that brings the best experts together to guide decision-making on the future of the Blackhawks while ensuring they share in the overall organizational goals of consistently competing at a championship level. And without question, he or she must be someone who exhibits our organizational values.”

Interim general manager Kyle Davidson is a candidate for the permanent role and will retain full acting GM duties in the meantime, Wirtz said.

Whether or not Davidson gets this job, many in the organization expect him to retain a very significant leadership role. The 33-year-old’s fresh mindset, down-to-earth attitude and objective approach toward many of ex-GM Stan Bowman’s pet projects have earned him many fans in his three months so far on the job.

But what won’t happen, as many had also speculated, is a hockey operations president being hired above Davidson or whoever is hired for this position. The GM will report directly to Wirtz.

Wednesday’s update comes after six weeks of undergoing a “discovery and research process that explored all functions and structure” of hockey operations, Wirtz said. That “revealed an incredible amount of in-house talent while also highlighting areas for growth and opportunities to become more competitive.”

The products of that process and the organization’s new long-term vision will supposedly be shared at a meeting with fans and media next week.

Meanwhile, Wirtz, Faulkner and an “advisory committee . . . comprised of leaders across the sports industry” — the members of which will be announced later — will conduct and oversee the GM interviewing process. One possible member of the advisory is prominent sports consultant Mike Forde, whom the Hawks hired in December, the Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli reported.

There’s a prevailing sense the Hawks have and will continue to cast a wide net in their search. With the organization entering an era of upheaval on all fronts — restructuring its front office, restaffing its coaching staff and imminently rebuilding its player roster — the moment is right to consider unconventional approaches.

One thing is clear: their GM search will look well beyond the pool of people with previous GM experience for other NHL franchises, and even beyond the pool of people with previous experience in the NHL in any regard. Wirtz said “candidates both inside and outside of hockey” will be interviewed.

The timing of the hiring within March will matter, as the Hawks will need to begin negotiations on deadline-oriented trades well before deadline day itself. And they should be busy with negotiations. Marc-Andre Fleury, Dominik Kubalik and Calvin de Haan seem likely to be dealt; Dylan Strome, Ryan Carpenter and Henrik Borgstrom are also possibilities; and trading almost anyone on the roster could be entertained at the right price.

The new GM should also have primary control over the interviewing and hiring process for a permanent head coach, which will likely conclude in the offseason.

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