The Pittsburgh Penguins postponed their 12:45 p.m. media availability without explanation. An hour later, the bombshell surprise rocked the Penguins universe as Jim Rutherford, the team’s venerable GM and architect of back-to-back Stanley Cups resigned, effective immediately.
Rutherford, 71, said he felt now was the right time.
“It has been a great honor to serve as general manager of the Penguins and to hang two more Stanley Cup banners at PPG Paints Arena,” Rutherford said via the Penguins release. “I have so many people to thank, beginning with the owners, Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux, and team president David Morehouse…”
Jim Rutherford was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2019. He built Stanley Cup winners in both Carolina and Pittsburgh.
Rutherford has not been seen at Penguins games this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He took over the Penguins job after spending two decades with the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes organization. During the summer of 2014, the Penguins were in a messy situation as they parted ways with GM Ray Shero and eventually head coach Dan Bylsma. The GM search took a public turn as candidates declined the job, and hockey analyst Pierre McGuire confirmed the team offered him only a one-year offer as the GM.
Rutherford had recently been moved to the President’s role in Carolina to make room for Ron Francis as the new general manager. Rutherford felt the itch and inquired about the Penguins’ job.
It was his shortly thereafter.
“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. 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.”
Jim Rutherford “Re-Builder”
Rutherford was the GM who steered the Penguins back to championship glory after several years of declining success and consternation. Under Rutherford’s direction, the Penguins stabilized the coaching position first with the gentile Mike Johnston, but then with the commanding Mike Sullivan in Dec. 2015.
Rutherford made bold trades. Many worked. Some did not. Those moves that did not work were often replaced with more trades or personnel moves.
In 2014, Rutherford’s first big splash was trading popular winger James Neal for grinding 30-goal pest Patric Hornqvist. He also traded a first-round pick to Edmonton for David Perron but later swapped the ineffective Perron for Carl Hagelin, who became an integral part of the Penguins 2016, and 2017 Stanley Cup runs.
“Jim has been an amazing representative of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and he’ll always have a special place in our team’s history, his own legacy,” said David Morehouse, the Penguins’ president, and CEO. “He’ll always be part of the Penguins. On behalf of our ownership, management, staff, coaches, and players, we want to thank him for his many contributions, which go far beyond those two Stanley Cups. Jim is a great friend and teammate. We wish him and his family the best.”
Rutherford also acquired Phil Kessel on July 1, 2015, as well as stalwarts such as Ian Cole, Justin Schultz, and one of his most lopsided deals was acquiring Trevor Daley for the fading Rob Scuderi.
Jim Rutherford Recent History
Rutherford’s last couple of offseasons, however, will be remembered less fondly. A contract was given to defenseman Jack Johnson, who was bought out this offseason after just two years of his five-year deal. Rutherford also acquired expensive project defenseman Mike Matheson for Hornqvist. The moves maxed out the Penguins’ cap structure.
He did land Kasperi Kapanen from the Toronto Maple Leafs in August. The splash shocked other GMs.
Penguins assistant GM Patrik Allvin, 46, has been named the Pittsburgh Penguins interim GM. The Penguins recently promoted Allvin to AGM from Director of Amateur Scouting. Allvin held that position for three years.
PHN will have further analysis and news as the situation unfolds on Wednesday. Penguins team president David Morehouse will address the media at 3 p.m.