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The Top 5 List: Jim Rutherford’s Best Penguins Trades

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Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford

Jim Rutherford took over as the Pittsburgh Penguins General Manager amid chaos, tumult and a string of candidates who declined the gig. Lets also not forget Pierre McGuire claimed to be offered a one-year contract to take the job. Rutherford was winding down his career in Carolina, he was promoted to President by the organization so Ron Francis could assume the GM role.

A few weeks later, Rutherford decided he wanted to remain a general manager, so he resigned his position with Carolina and the rest if Hockey Hall of Fame history, etched in silver. Twice.

Top 5 Rutherford Trades:

5 – John Marino

In July of 2019, when Jim Rutherford and the Penguins traded for defenseman John Marino, it was a minor move that most fans thought might pay off years down the road. This was before Marino ever even suited up for an NHL game. Now, deep into his rookie season, Marino has already proved himself as a top-4 blue-liner with some serious potential. Mario was currently sidelined with a broken cheek, but considering the Penguins only gave up a sixth-rounder to Edmonton for Marino, it seems like an epic steal.

4 – Justin Schultz

Justin Schultz had a rough start to his NHL career. In his 248 games with the Oilers, Schultz posted a plus/minus of -78 and never scored more than 33 points in a season. So, when the Penguins traded a third-round pick for Schultz at the deadline in 2016, many questioned exactly what Jim Rutherford was thinking. However, Schultz proved to be a breath of fresh air for the Penguins defense immediately. He helped the team win their fourth Stanley Cup in 2016 and then had his career-high in both points (51) and plus/minus (+27) in 2017 when the Penguins won their second straight Cup.

3 – HBK is Formed

The most memorable part of the Penguins’ championship run in the 2016 playoffs was the HBK line. The H was Carl Hagelin, who joined the Penguins that January in a trade with Anaheim. The Penguins needed another winger to add to the core, and Hagelin showed up in a big way. Alongside Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel, Hagelin surged offensively in the playoffs with 16 points (to go along with Bonino’s 18 and Kessel’s 22) and led all Penguins in plus/minus. Hagelin had 7 points in the six-game series with Washington and had the deciding goal in game 3 of that series.

2 – Hornqvist for Neal

Exactly three weeks into his stint as Penguins general manager, Jim Rutherford traded away James Neal, the Penguins newest star who had scored 40 goals just two seasons prior at age 24. Neal was dealt to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. The questionable move to some was a stroke of brilliance for Rutherford. Neal has not recaptured the offensive dominance that he saw with the Penguins, and conversely, Hornqvist continued to be as good a player as he was with Nashville. And as a cherry on top, it was Hornqvist who buried the game-winning goal in game 6 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals to beat those same Nashville Predators.

1 – Phil The Thrill

The 2014-15 Pittsburgh Penguins followed up their 43-27-12 regular season with a first round loss to the New York Rangers in five games. This Penguins team finished with 98 points, which marked the first time since the ‘08-’09 Cup-winning team that they did not reach 100 points, not counting the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. These teams each dominated the regular season, but once the playoffs hit, they fell short year after year. Then, in June of 2015, Jim Rutherford pushed the Penguins over the proverbial hump. He traded Nick Spaling, Kasperi Kapanen, Scott Harrington, a first-rounder, and a third-rounder for Phil Kessel, Tim Erixon, Tyler Biggs and a second-round pick previously owned by the Penguins. Kessel provided an instant element to the Pittsburgh offense, which helped them win back to back Stanley Cups in Kessel’s first two years with the team. Kessel put together an impressive 0.92 points per game as a Penguin.

Honorable mentions for debate: Robert Bortuzzo for Ian Cole. Derrick Brassard, Riley Sheahan, second-round pick, fourth-round pick to Florida for Jared McCann and Nick Bjugstad. Rob Scuderi to Detroit for Trevor Daley.

*Welcome Orion Moses to the PHN family. He is an undergraduate assistant from Duquesne University and we’re happy to have him

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