Nearly two weeks ago I wrote an article that supported Penguins General Manager Jim Rutherford. It was called “In Rutherford We Trust”. Today I add to that sentiment with some impressive moves and remarks he made on July 1, 2015.
The trade that shook the league. The Penguins biggest move on the first day of Free Agency wasn’t signing a big named player but rather trading for one of the top goal scorers in the league in Phil Kessel. Yes there are other players in the deal that are coming to Pittsburgh (Tim Erixon and Tyler Biggs) but the big catch, the one that changes the dynamic and outlook of the Penguins top six is Phil Kessel.
Last summer was a difficult one for Rutherford and company. They were tasked with finding and hiring a coaching staff and then retooling a team with very limited cap space and assets to use at their disposal. Jim made the best of it year ago but he didn’t stop there. Throughout the season he brought in players like Perron and Winnik who helped in one way or the other, just not as much as it was thought they would.
When the Penguins 2014/15 season came to an end in April everyone knew changes would be made and something drastic had to happen. Crosby and Malkin are not getting younger and it was time for them to get what they always needed, legit top six forwards who can put the puck in the net on a regular basis.
For Crosby we saw one of the biggest deals in franchise history go down with Rutherford acquiring Phil Kessel. It’s hard to believe Kessel would play anywhere but on Sid’s Right Wing. We then had the signing of Russian Sergei Plotnikov. And while Sergei isn’t a shoe in for Malkin’s Left Wing, he has the ability and opportunity to play in that role here in Pittsburgh.
It has been an impressive Free Agency for Jim Rutherford and the Penguins already and we are still roughly three months from training camp.
Rutherford was asked a plethora of questions yesterday regarding the trade and one that has stuck out most to me was him being asked if Olli Maatta was ever even brought up in the trade negotiations.
“Olli, my God, no,” Rutherford said. “I honestly don’t even think of him as one of our young defensemen. He’s so advanced. He’s on our top pair with Kris Letang. No, no, no.”
It is awesome to see that Rutherford feels as we the fans do about one of the most impressive up and coming defenders on the team.
Then there was Derrick Pouliot
According to Dejan Kovacevic of DKonpittsburghsports.com
“Rutherford refused to budge on Pouliot. Mike Johnston and the coaching staff love the kid, and they wouldn’t let him go no matter how hard the Leafs pushed”
A lot and I really mean A LOT of fans and media types were sure that Maatta or Pouliot would have to be moved in order to get a Kessel deal done. Luckily for the Penguins everyone was wrong.
Finally JR’s thoughts on if he came out the winner on the trade.
“You can never know with trades. Over time is when you can best judge trades,” Rutherford said. “We got the best player in the trade right now. It usually works out for the team that gets the best player. To not take a lot off our team and to add Kessel, at this point, that gives me personal satisfaction.”
It’s hard not to start believing in Rutherford after a move like this. He didn’t just not give up a lot, he was adamant on not giving up a lot from the beginning. He was patient and struck when the time was right.
If he keeps this up through the rest of the summer and next season there should be no reason why every Penguins fan isn’t saying “In Rutherford We Trust.”
Thanks for Reading!
– Robert Slavinsky