The Vancouver Canucks formally announced Jim Rutherford as their new President of Hockey Operations and interim GM on Monday. Per custom, Rutherford both quelled NHL trade rumors and put the league on notice that he’s looking at a long list of potential GMs. It seems Rutherford may have dropped a hint at poaching an assistant GM, and the Pittsburgh Penguins have the perfect candidate.
There’s also a perfect candidate for the Pittsburgh Penguins on waivers.
The Dallas Stars waived goalie Anton Khudobin on Monday. He’ll either clear waivers at 2 p.m. today and report to the Dallas AHL team or pack his bags for a new city. Dallas already said goodbye to Ben Bishop last week when it took only one rehab start in the AHL for the 35-year-old goalie to realize his comeback attempt was over.
Dallas has Braden Holtby seeing beachballs and 22-year-old Jake Ottinger, who kicked open the door to the NHL. Dallas has injuries and illness. They needed roster spots and salary cap space, so Khudobin is on waivers.
The Penguins won’t find a better fit, but it would take some work.
Why it’s a Perfect Fit for Pittsburgh Penguins.
Full respect to Penguins backup goalie Casey DeSmith. Last week, he turned his season around with a pair of wins, including the shutout win over the Anaheim Ducks. DeSmith is a capable backup, and his rebound from a brutal season-start makes this opinion a lot less “slam dunk” material.
But if you recall the Dallas Stars run to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, you remember Khudobin being the brick wall as Dallas marched through the Western Conference bubble.
He’s a big game goalie with the ability to be a backup or 1A goalie. Or a starting goalie. The 2020 run included his first playoff starts, and he rode the bull like a rodeo professional. At 35-years-old, it was his only playoff run, but he passed with flying colors.
In the regular season, his career save percentage is a robust .916.
He needs playing time. Like DeSmith, Khudobin is off to a rough start. He’s 3-3-1 with an .873 save percentage. That’s worrisome, as was his regression as a starter last season when his save percentage dipped to .905.
A 35-year-old whose numbers dipped. Sounds like gold, eh?
But here’s the big question and why Khudobin is perfect for the Penguins: On May 1, or whenever the NHL playoffs begin, if Tristan Jarry is hurt or struggling, which goalie is the better option–Khudobin or DeSmith?
Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill probably isn’t keen to eat salary, or Khudobin would have been moved via the NHL trade market. Khudobin makes $3.33 million this season and next, so he’s not a rental.
But it would be easier than you think for the Penguins to afford it. According to Puckpedia.com, the Penguins’ salary cap will be about $2.5 million in the red if or when everyone gets healthy.
The Penguins would save just over $1 million by sending DeSmith to the WBS Penguins. They can also save another $925,000 by sending Drew O’Connor to WBS. Or they can save $750,000 by sending Sam Lafferty to WBS, pending how soon Evgeni Malkin or Bryan Rust will return.
That leaves about $1.4 million to get back to where they are now.
Somebody will be headed out, eventually, regardless if Khudobin gets to wear a Penguins jersey. Khudobin checks the boxes: veteran, playoff experience, NHL success. And no visit to the NHL trade market is required.
Some notes from Jim Rutherford’s introductory press conference, courtesy of our colleague who covers the Vancouver Canucks for Vancouver Hockey Now, Rob Simpson.
Rutherford said he wouldn’t shake things up right away. During Rutherford’s first days in Pittsburgh, he flipped scoring winger James Neal to the Nashville Predators for Patric Hornqvist.
Within the first 18 months, Rutherford remade the Penguins, including Carl Hagelin and Trevor Daley. Rutherford also made a coaching change, bringing in Mike Sullivan, though he already has a new coach in Vancouver.
“I’m not in a hurry to make a trade,” Rutherford said, though his reputation preceded him.
It sounds like the Canucks GM search will not be quick and not be small. Rutherford admitted he has a list of 40 names.
“I have compiled a list of 40 people, and I’ve put them in categories as possibilities of potential general managers,” Rutherford said. “One category is guys that have already been GM’s and are no longer with their team. The other group is a lot of assistant general managers that would be entry-level GM’s that I could mentor or work with, that I really enjoy.”
That indeed seems like Rutherford wants fresh fish to be the Canucks GM.
“That’s what we’re going to look for. I’m going to start to work on this maybe even later tonight, start to make some calls, and make people aware,” Rutherford said. “I do have one assistant manager that I’d like to bring in this week. I’m just waiting to see if that’s possible or not.”
Rutherford said he wanted to talk to one AGM, but he would need permission for that conversation. That AGM would remain an AGM and is not one of the 40 names on Rutherford’s list.
Is that person the Pittsburgh Penguins Patrik Allvin, whom Rutherford promoted to AGM and who took over as interim GM after Rutherford left? How about analytics guru Sam Ventura in Buffalo? He worked closely with Rutherford with the Penguins.
We’ll see if Rutherford lures away his former pupils so he can continue their tutelage.
Rutherford’s coach, Bruce Boudreau, has the Canucks playing the fast, hungry hockey they were supposed to play. Boudreau also brags about scoring his first NHL goal against Jim Rutherford, then a Detroit Red Wings goalie.
Rutherford says he remembers.
“Very much so, very much so,” said the Canucks new President. “He had trouble scoring on other guys, and I was his friend, so I let him score.” Rutherford earned a good laugh.
One thing is certain. The NHL got a lot less boring on Monday.