Don Sweeney got a job in the Bruins' front office yesterday, while Mike Sullivan, with one year left on his contract as Boston's head coach, awaited word on whether he will still be around when training camp begins shortly after Labor Day.
Sullivan, according to a source familiar with his ongoing talks with general manager designee Peter Chiarelli, is to learn his fate by no later than this morning. The source added that the 38-year-old Sullivan, after anticipating Chiarelli would make a decision by last Friday, initiated a call to Chiarelli Tuesday night in Ottawa, and the future GM told him that he will inform him of his decision by today.
``For a lot of reasons, he'd like to know, obviously," said the source. ``He was hoping it would be handled in a timely manner."
When reached via e-mail last night, Chiarelli said there would be no announcement regarding Sullivan's situation last night, ``but something probably for [tomorrow] or Saturday morning."
Sullivan did not make the trip to Vancouver for this weekend's NHL draft, which in itself is a deviation from the norm. Through the years, the Bruins have always brought their coach to the draft.
``We made that decision about three weeks ago," said acting general manager Jeff Gorton. ``With his situation being up in the air, it didn't seem fair to ask him to come to Vancouver. But I want to stress that the decision was made three weeks ago."
Sullivan, in charge of the Boston bench since the start of the 2003-04 season, did not respond to a cellphone message or an e-mail, both messages left for him around noon yesterday.
Meanwhile, Sweeney, who will turn 40 in August, accepted a position as the club's director of player development, ending speculation that began at the end of May when Chiarelli was named as Mike O'Connell's replacement. Sweeney and Chiarelli, 41, were Harvard Crimson teammates in the 1980s.
``I am really looking forward to it," said Sweeney, reached via cellphone only minutes after the club announced his new job. ``There will be a learning curve, like everything else, and the job is a bit of an open canvas right now, in terms of my duties and responsibilities. But I'll be acting as a conduit between players we draft, and working with them as they develop."
Sweeney said he envisions, among other things, checking in frequently with the club's draft picks who are playing in college, minor pro, or European leagues.
After playing for 15 seasons in Boston, Sweeney wrapped up his career with a season in Dallas. Part of what got him interested in a front-office job, he said, was an offer by the Stars to join their administration.
``They extended their hand, and that's part of what prompted this," said Sweeney. ``I have tremendous respect for that organization -- they're a top-notch group. I'm very grateful for their interest."
But as Chiarelli got deeper into his own interview process with the Bruins, said Sweeney, the ex-teammates began to talk about Sweeney getting involved on Causeway Street. By the time Chiarelli formally signed on by the end of May, the two already had roughed out a position that will have Sweeney entering in a key role aimed at improving and streamlining the process of young talent joining the Boston roster.
Sweeney referred to the job as ``a starting point" in a new career.
``Where does it lead? Well, we'll see what happens," said Sweeney, when asked if he might set his aim on one day becoming an NHL general manager. ``You want to feel you are part of the solution. Like everyone, you want to set goals for yourself. But thinking beyond this starting point . . . I'm not sure that would be in anyone's best interest right now. If they were to reach out, and ask me to do more, and I felt I was able, then that could lead to another conversation."
As for Sullivan and the coaching job, that's a conversation Sullivan and Chiarelli likely are to have this morning. Since the end of the season, no fewer than six coaches have been named to new jobs across the league, including Alain Vigneault earlier this week in Vancouver.
Weeks ago, Guy Carbonneau was named as the new coach in Montreal. Paul Maurice recently replaced Pat Quinn in Toronto. Claude Julien took over the New Jersey bench. Ted Nolan, out of work some 10 years, was named to the Islander job. Marc Crawford, canned at season's end in Vancouver, recently accepted the Los Angeles Kings job.
Sullivan, meanwhile, awaits word on his fate. If he were to be dismissed, the two-plus months that have passed since the end of the season could have been an opportunity for him to get in contention for one of those coaching vacancies. Now that they've closed, a dismissal today could leave him out of work at the NHL level for a season or more. However, the one year left on his contract with the Bruins is believed to be worth in excess of $600,000 -- a deal he signed not long after the new collective bargaining agreement was finalized at the end of last summer.
Sweeney's hiring likely does not bode well for Sean Coady, who in recent years carried the title of director of pro scouting and player development. A source familiar with Coady's contract, which runs through next season, said his deal contains a window that allows him to talk with other clubs about employment. Gorton, who refused to comment on the specifics of Coady's contract, said last night from Vancouver that, ``Sean's still with us -- and that's what it is right now." Boston's end-of-season roster, in the wake of the Joe Thornton and Sergei Samsonov deals, left the Bruins with an abundance of roster players who were better suited for the AHL than the NHL. Virtually every NHL club has at least one or two wannabes, but the Bruins arguably had five or six.
Kent Hughes, the agent for Patrice Bergeron, said his client received a qualifying offer from the Bruins Monday, a week ahead of the league-imposed deadline. Gorton said last night that all qualifying offers had been issued, and anyone without one in hand by yesterday would not receive one. Peter Fish, the agent for Pat Leahy, said yesterday his client had not received a qualifying offer. Another of Fish's clients, unrestricted free agent defenseman Hal Gill, also had not yet received an offer. However, clubs are granted exclusive bargaining rights to their own free agents, restricted or unrestricted, until July 1. It is still possible that Gill, who turned 31 in April, will receive an offer to return to the Bruins. If so, he'll likely be looking at a steep paycut from his earnings of just under $1.6 million.