Penguins Rutherford Trading Like a Boss – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Rutherford Trading Like a Boss

I will be the first to admit that I was, almost to the last moment, against the Penguins trading for Phil Kessel. I am not going to be a hypocrite and act like I was an advocate all along because I wasn’t.

My concerns, for the most part, were not about Kessel being out of shape, or a poor character in the locker room. I did not like the 8 million dollar cap hit and the high price that Toronto would demand in a trade.

I started to warm up to the idea earlier in the day on July 1st, oddly enough because of the approach that GM Jim Rutherford was taking. He was practicing patience. Almost from the moment GMJR took over the Penguins helm he seemed intent on making big splash deals. Ehrhoff, Downie, Perron, Winnick, *cough* Lovejoy. It all seemed too frantic, forced, and, dare I say, Shero-like at times.


Going into the draft many worried that they would make a deal for the sake of making a deal. There was very little confidence that they would get it right, but after the draft concluded, following relentless trade rumors, people actually started to feel a little better about things.

Everyone assumed that Rutherford would deal at the Draft, but the deals weren’t right. He knows with the current state of the team there is zero margin for error, and he was holding out for what was best, not the quickest.

The real test was during the surprise drama that was the Brandon Saad trade. If ever there was a player that the Penguins fan base pined for it was Saad, but he still didn’t give up the farm for the golden boy from the Burgh. Despite the immense pressure, Rutherford handled the situation well. The calm, calculated approach was what this franchise has been needing for a long time.

But despite all of the patience, nobody could imagine that a deal involving Kessel could get done without Olli Maatta or Derrick Pouliot being involved, plus much more.

Then it happened. Sportsnet reported that the Penguins had acquired Kessel. No more information than that. Pittsburgh hockey fans collectively cheered (mostly), and then held their breath while they waited to see what Toronto was getting in return.

Who could believe it? Kapanen, Harrington, Spaling, and picks. WOW! And Toronto was taking some of Kessel’s salary.

Rutherford took them to the cleaners.

This is not to say that Rutherford is the greatest GM that ever lived, and his next five deals might be duds, but today he is the King of Consol.

Kessel is a true sniper and the most skilled winger for Crosby since Marian Hossa. Was his reputation in Toronto warranted? Yes and no, but as Rutherford said in his presser, he is getting a fresh start. Kessel will be training with former Penguin Gary Roberts this offseason, and that should help and show his commitment level.

This is now a deeper, more talented group of forwards than it was last year. Even after their early season tear, there was never a real comfort level with the roster. This is a true Cup contender now.

This article seems a little gushy, I know, but give kudos when they are due. I have personally, very recently described Penguins management as untrustworthy and irresponsible, but for today they earned their accolades. Rutherford played the part of the wise veteran GM that the Penguins thought they were getting.

Rutherford rattled the hockey world on July 1. No better evidence than that of the comments made by Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos ripping Rutherford for trading first-round picks.

I leave you with a question to answer via Twitter @Greg_Thornberry or in the comments section.

If you could trade the exact same assets, but get Saad instead of Kessel would you do it?

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  1. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    July 5, 2015 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    Hi Rick, Great article.
    Good to have your blog back.It has indeed been an interesting 10 weeks since your last article. Ron and Mario selling the Team. 600- 700 million plus, rumors have it. WOW. Imagine what the Franchise and land development rights would be worth if they had won 2 or 3 more Cups? A very smart move on their part. I would do the same if it was my team.This has Ron Burkle written all over it. This is what he does.He takes losing businesses,puts his capital and management style in to failing companies, turns them around, makes them profitable, then sells them.Reports say they paid 110 million appx., for the team when they bought it and now will sell it for a handsome profit.Good for Mario. He deserves it. Ron too !
    Problem is Rick, the next guy who has to pay 700 million for the team,will have to finance some of the purchase price and that economic reality will have a far reaching affect on the Penguin teams of the future. Mario never had to worry about a possible 300 to 500 million mortgage to pay for. His was equity. Big difference. I know the owners put a large value on the land development rights,but it takes time and capital to recapture your money.

    Rutherford’s job when hired, was to fix the mess left by Shero and yet keep the fan base and advertisers happy.To date, he has done a fairly good job considering what he inherited from Shero.( Being forced to play with only 5 d men in the last week of the season is a problem he must wear ).To be fair he had no control over injuries,limited talent in the minors and the bad contracts.He did not have much to work with last year.
    The team still has some major,major issues.Cap space. No skilled depth in the system compared with other elite teams.No size or toughness.To many old men on terrible contracts. No high end draft picks. To many injuries,to often.
    But I give JR full credit in the Kessel signing.It was a bold move. Signing the Russian winger was also a good move. He now needs to get value for Kunitz,Sutter and Bennet via trade.In short,he needs one more winger with size, speed and talent for Geno and to upgrade the third line,and add another veteran D man. He also needs to unload Scuderi.
    Resigning Ian Cole was very good for the Pen’s. This guy has a bright future.JR stole this guy from the Blues.Just like he did to Toronto in the Kessel trade.
    To be honest,Jim Rutherford was not my first choice to be the new GM either, but he is slowly making a believer out of me. Pens need him to be the leader of this organization given the coming season and the change in ownership that WILL happen shortly.The team as currently configured is definitely not the favorite to win the Cup next year. Jim needs to keep busy and find us 3 or 4 more key players with size,speed and skill by next April to make us competitive in the chase for the Cup. After the Kessel trade,I think he can do it.
    Looking forward to an interesting 2015-16 season. Lets go Pen’s.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      July 7, 2015 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      Hey Jim,

      Just to be clear, Greg wrote this article.

      As always, Jim, you cover a lot of ground in your comments and make a lot of good points. While I think acquiring Kessel fills a glaring need and will make the Penguins infinitely more dangerous—and fun to watch—it doesn’t make them a Cup contender.

      I agree with the decision to go with the kids on defense, but I don’t think the Pens have the right mix. I was encouraged when JR signed Reid McNeill…who’s big and tough. Whether he’ll ever actually play for the Pens remains to be seen. Mike Johnston loves puck-moving d-men.

      No telling how certain pieces will fit. I love the Plotnikov signing, but there’s no guarantee he’s a legit NHL forward, let alone a second liner who can play (and thrive) next to Malkin. I’m just not sold on Bennett. You could wait a whole career for him to develop. I, too, wouldn’t mind moving Scuderi and perhaps Kunitz (don’t know how much he has left). Don’t know if there would be any takers.

      Right now, the Pens are looking at fleshing out the fourth line with kids like Sundqvist, Wilson and Rust, with perhaps Farnham sprinkled in to add spice. But if Plotnikov and Bennett flop, and/or if Kunitz continues to fade and Dupuis can’t stay healthy, there could be holes all over the place. Too many for the Pens to fill with what they presently have in the organization.

      • Anonymous's Gravatar Anonymous
        July 7, 2015 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for your reply Rick.
        My apologies to Greg.I thought you were the only contributor.I will not make that mistake again. Sorry.
        By your comments,I know you really are true Pens fanatic ..
        One question I want to ask you..Can the Penguins under the CBA trade a player,( say Scuderi ) and large amount of cash for a star player like Darnell Nurse from Edmonton,or a first year star forward who only has a appx. 1 million dollar cap hit ? To me that would make sense to do for the Pens who are currently a money printing machine.


        • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
          July 8, 2015 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

          No problem. I just wanted to make sure Greg got proper credit for an excellent piece.

          That’s a really good question about including a large amount of cash in trades. Honestly, I don’t know the answer. You used to see cash included in deals a lot back in the ’60s and ’70s, but you don’t see transactions like that in the cap era. Now teams seem to pick up a portion of a player’s salary (like the Leafs are doing with Kessel). Which, I guess, is a form of the type of cash exchange you were referring to.

  2. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    July 3, 2015 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Hey Greg,

    Great article. Like you, I was lukewarm at best about the prospects of acquiring Kessel, for all the same reasons. Then JR swung the deal, and I haven’t stopped smiling since.

    Bottom line…the Pens really needed a big-time scorer and now they have one.


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