CHICAGO (AP) – The Chicago Blackhawks hired Dale Tallon as their new general manager Tuesday, and he wasted no time firing coach Brian Sutter.

“I’ve thought about this long and hard for the last six weeks,” Tallon said. “This is not about the past, it’s about the future.

“I want to start with a fresh sheet of ice, a clean slate, and move forward into the future.”

Under Sutter, the Blackhawks were 91-118-37 in three seasons, and made the playoffs once, in 2001-02. The NHL lockout canceled the 2004-05 season.

“I’ve talked to Brian and had a great conversation with him,” Tallon said. “I have a world of respect for him. He totally understood the direction I want to go in.”

Tallon, the club’s assistant GM since November 2003, takes over for interim GM Bob Pulford, who remains the Blackhawks’ senior vice president. Pulford stepped in for Mike Smith in October 2003.

Tallon said Trent Yawney, coach of the Blackhawks’ AHL team in Norfolk the past five seasons, is the top candidate to replace Sutter.

“Obviously, Trent Yawney is the leading candidate,” Tallon said. “We’ll interview some other people in the next few weeks and make a decision.”

Tallon said Blackhawks assistant coach Bruce Cassidy also is a candidate. Cassidy coached the Washington Capitals.

Once the NHL completes a new collective bargaining agreement, Tallon and his staff will be busy. The team has only eight players under contract.

Tallon said the Blackhawks’ current player payroll is roughly $10.5 million, well under the projected $35 million to $38 million salary cap expected under any NHL’s new contract.

Tallon, 54, was an NHL defenseman for 10 years, five with Chicago. He had 98 goals and 238 assists in 642 games. After retiring in 1980, he was the Blackhawks’ color commentary for 16 years. He was hired as Chicago’s player personnel director in 1998, and returned to the team’s broadcast booth in 2002.

AP-ES-06-21-05 1530EDT

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