At 1.p.m. ET, the Pittsburgh Penguins will hold a press conference where they will officially announce Jim Rutherford as the new GM, as reported by Bob McKenzie of TSN. The 65-year-old resigned as general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes in April and moved into an advisory role as team president after 20 years in the organization. During Rutherford’s tenure, the Whalers/Hurricanes went to the Stanley Cup Playoffs five times, earning three division titles, two Eastern Conference titles and winning the Stanley Cup in 2006.
The Penguins have been searching for a new general manager after firing Ray Shero on May 16th, just three days after the Penguins were eliminated in seven games by the New York Rangers. In recent weeks, three names in Tampa Bay’s assistant GM Julien BriseBois, Penguins’ interim general manager Jason Botterill, and NBC analyst Pierre McGuire have been considered the leading candidates for the job. Rutherford’s name did not surface until Tuesday and has denied commenting on the matter.
The main reason for Shero’s firing was, according to owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle, the lack of influential forwards for the Penguins that were taken in the draft. That’s why hiring Rutherford would come as a bit of a surprise. Since 2005, the Hurricanes have really only drafted one impact forward in the 2010 seventh-overall-pick Jeff Skinner. Depth center Brandon Sutter of the Pittsburgh Penguins was also a first rounder taken by Rutherford and the Carolina Hurricanes. Elias Lindholm was taken in the 2013 first round and has yet to make a real impact on the Hurricanes roster, although he played 58 games this season and put up a total of 21 points (9+12). Considering Shero often picked in the later stages of the first round, one could argue that he has had more success than Rutherford.
The Penguins do have familiarity with Rutherford, not only during his short period as a goaltender with them, but also as a GM. Rutherford was the one who orchestrated the franchise-altering trade that sent Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes for Brand Sutter, defensive prospect Brian Dumoulin and the first-round pick, that turned into the 2013-2014 WHL Defenseman of the Year, Derrick Pouliot. The Hurricanes have selected some defensive talent in Ryan Murphy and NHL regulars Justin Faulk and Brett Bellemore, but Ray Shero did not receive criticism for his pick of defensemen. The Penguins leading goal-scorer in this year’s playoffs, Jussi Jokinen, was actually waved by Rutherford and the Hurricanes during 2012-13. Jokinen, being a UFA this summer, was considered very unlikely to re-sign with the Penguins and with the hiring of Rutherford it is safe to say that he won’t be playing in black and gold next season.
The Hurricanes have actually had a pretty similar team to the Penguins with some top-end talent and lack of support behind them. That being said, Rutherford did not have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to build around (with no disrespect to Eric Staal), and a change of scenery is seldomly a bad thing. Also, Rutherford could possibly be brought in to groom a GM in training, Jason Botterill (as in the case of Ron Francis), who could take over in four-five years.
The first line of business for Rutherford will be to evaluate head coach Dan Bylsma and his associates to potentially have a new coaching staff in place for the NHL draft on June 27-28 in Philadelphia.
Watch the Penguins’ press conference live from, http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/console?id=623768&catid=616&navid=nhl:topheads
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