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John Manasso - Staff
Saturday, August 19, 2006

The departure of the Thrashers' director of player personnel indicates how tenuous general manager Don Waddell's tenure is with training camp looming less than a month away.

Waddell, the only general manager in franchise history (since June 1998), has not gotten the Thrashers into the playoffs in six seasons, the longest current drought in the NHL.

So earlier this month when Jack Ferreira, who had worked in the Thrashers' front office since September 2000, signed a multiyear contract as special assistant to the Los Angeles Kings' new general manager, Dean Lombardi, Waddell said he did not feel as if he were in a position to go to ownership and ask to keep Ferreira.

In fact, Waddell, whose contract was recently extended through the 2007-08 season, is the only member of the team's front office whose deal does not expire at the end of this season --- including coach Bob Hartley.

"You know the situation with Bob right now," Waddell said of Hartley. "Because Bob can't get a multiyear contract and we're on very good terms [that puts me in an awkward position]."

Waddell was asked if he thinks ownership could make wholesale changes if the team does not perform up to expectations this season.

"Absolutely, we're all under the microscope," he said. "We were last year, and there were some situations that occurred that were a little bit out of our control. We've made some progress and had 90 points. The whole organization, the hockey operation, is under a microscope. I don't think we're handing out multiyear contracts to anyone at this point. . . . We just have to go out and prove it, and it'll put us all in a much better situation."

The practice in the NHL often is for general managers not to work in the last year of their contract. Waddell said the only reason ownership extended his contract by one season in July was "I put it in my contract that it had to be extended or there were [financial] penalties."

Bruce Levenson, the Atlanta Spirit owner who sits on the NHL's board of governors, would not comment Friday on Waddell's job security, nor on the circumstances surrounding Ferreira's departure.

Ferreira, a former general manager of the Minnesota North Stars, San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Mighty Ducks, kept his residence in California throughout his tenure with the Thrashers and has known Lombardi since Lombardi was 16. Lombardi was Ferreira's assistant general manager in Minnesota and San Jose.

Ferreira, 61, remains close with Waddell, and the two discussed the Thrashers' acquisition of defenseman Vitaly Vishnevski at length on Wednesday. Ferreira said he had received multiyear deals in the past and was under the impression that Waddell could not give out a multiyear contract because of the legal dispute involving the team's ownership.

However, a court order that once prevented the team from entering into contracts of longer than one year has been amended. Ferreira, citing the need for job security at his age, said, "Probably the biggest factor [for leaving] is because Don can only give one-year contracts to everybody. ... I probably would've stayed in Atlanta because I liked the people. I thought we were going in the right direction."
 

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