- Veteran NHL general manager Jim Rutherford has abruptly resigned from his GM post with the Pittsburgh Penguins, citing personal reasons
- Rutherford guided the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cups after winning one with the Carolina Hurricanes
- Fallout on Penguins futures values remains to be seen
The 2021 NHL season is going to be a difficult one for players, team personnel, staff and fans alike. No one is immune to the way the world is operating at the moment, and the last little while has certainly seen the sports world throw us some curveballs.
Wednesday was no exception as a surprising resignation was submitted in the NHL on one of the league’s most popular clubs.
Penguins GM Rutherford Resigns
Seemingly out of nowhere, veteran general manager Jim Rutherford has resigned from his post as the Pittsburgh Penguins GM, a position he’s held since the 2014-15 season.
In stepping down, Rutherford cited personal reasons for the decision.
“There always has been so much support from everyone involved with the Penguins, both on the hockey and business staffs, and, of course, from a special group of players led by Sidney Crosby, “Rutherford said in a statement. “The fans here have been tremendous to me and my family. I know it’s a little unusual to have this happen during a season, but just felt this was the right time to step away.”
The Penguins will promote assistant GM Patrik Allvin to replace Rutherford as the team’s interim GM. Allvin was recently promoted as the Penguins assistant GM, and the team will begin an immediate search for Rutherford’s replacement.
Some immediately speculated the 71-year-old Rutherford stepped down due to health reasons, something CEO David Morehouse was quick to dismiss.
“There is nothing wrong with Jim Rutherford’s health, I can tell you that,” Morehouse said. He is perfectly healthy. I just wanted to make that clear.”
In the same news conference on Wednesday, Morehouse said he was shocked by Rutherford’s decision and that the two had spoken on Tuesday night and Rutherford “had made his mind up.”
According to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, Rutherford is not ready to retire.
“I will just take it easy for a while until the summer time and at that point, I can decide if I want to keep working or if I want to retire,” Rutherford told LeBrun.
Three-Time Cup Winner
Prior to joining the Penguins for the 2014-15 season, Rutherford spent two decades with the Carolina Hurricanes, leading the team to its only Stanley Cup championship in 2006.
Rutherford would then go on to win back-to-bad titles at the helm of the Penguins in 2016 and 2017.
Never afraid to make a move, the Hall of Famer was well known as “Trader Jim” as he completed 61 trades in less than seven years on the job with the Penguins. He’s made bold moves to trade for goal-scorer Phil Kessel from the Toronto Maple Leafs and then trade Kessel to the Arizona Coyotes years later.
The former NHL goaltender also traded for the likes of Patric Hornqvist, Carl Hagelin, Trevor Daley, Ian Cole, Nick Bonino, Justin Schultz and Ron Hainsey in moves that appeared minor at the time but came up big en route to a pair of Stanley Cup championships.
Rutherford was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015 and was named the Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year award in 2016.
There will be a long list of candidates ready to take a stab at a Penguins vacant GM job that includes taking over a Cup-contending roster led by Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, one that Rutherford re-jigged once again after back-to-back disappointing postseason results over the last two years.
Futures Fallout Unknown
How this move relates to the Penguins East Division and Stanley Cup futures remains to be seen.
As noted, Rutherford has never been afraid to make a bold move to improve a roster that is always in contention so long as Crosby and Malkin are the one-two punch down the middle.
The Penguins are off to a fine 4-2-1 start in the difficult East at this point, but the trade deadline has always been a fixture for Rutherford in upgrading his roster before looking forward to a deep playoff run.
Whether Allvin will be able to make such bold moves remains to be seen. His relationship with GM’s around the league is nowhere near Rutherford’s and as much as consultant and NHL legend Mario Lemieux is widely respected around the league, the GM chair is a whole new ball game.
The Penguins currently sit with +475 odds to win the East, as per BetOnline, behind the Boston Bruins (+250) and rival Philadelphia Flyers (+300). Their Stanley Cups odds currently sit at +2000 alongside the likes of the Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals. All three of those clubs have appeared in a Stanley Cup Final over the last three seasons (Capitals winning in 2018 and the Blues in 2019), a spot the Penguins are looking to return to this season.
If they do so, it will be without a legendary executive and a widely respected man that dropped a bombshell on the NHL on Wednesday, but hey, that’s been life of late.