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‘We Have Mario Lemieux As Backup’; Penguins GM Situation & Search

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Pittsburgh Penguins Patrik Allvin

Pittsburgh Penguins President David Morehouse smirked when PHN asked about the new power structure in the Penguins front office after the surprise resignation of Penguins General Manager Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin ascending to interim GM. Morehouse was amused because the Penguins have an ace.

Literally.

In his playing days, Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux’s nickname was “Ace.” As Allvin assumes Rutherford’s chair either permanently or until the Penguins find their replacement, the 15-year veteran of the organization will have full control beyond the NHL trade deadline, if necessary.

“He’s going to have full authority. He’s also going to have Mario Lemieux as a backup,” an amused Morehouse said. “So, I think we’ll be OK in that area…Mario’s had some experience around this stuff, so I think we’ll be OK.”

We didn’t have time to follow up to ask of the legend of Lemieux walking into then-GM Ray Shero’s office a few hours before the 2008 NHL trade deadline, requesting Shero acquire Marian Hossa, and simply walking out is true.

Allvin has been with the Penguins organization for 15 years and risen from a scout to the Director of Amateur Scouting, assistant-GM this offseason, and now interim GM.

The Penguins have not yet made Allvin available to the media.

By all accounts, Jim Rutherford’s resignation on Wednesday was a surprise to most. Morehouse said Rutherford told him in a conversation on Tuesday night, and Rutherford confirmed his intentions again Wednesday morning. As his final act, Rutherford signed defenseman Yannick Weber to a two-way contract to add depth to the Penguins suddenly depleted blue line.

Adding to the abrupt nature of the in-season resignation, while assuring media that Rutherford’s health is fine, Morehouse offhandedly quipped about all of the Penguins trades Rutherford was trying to make.

“Judging from the minutes on his cell phone, and the deals he was always trying to make, and the five-mile walks he’s on every day when I talk to him,” Morehouse said. “He’s perfectly healthy. I just want make that clear.’

That doesn’t mean Twitter and the internet didn’t leap to conspiracy theories, as well. It’s 2021. What are we if we’re not conspiracy nuts?

External ponderances ranged from Rutherford getting upset that he couldn’t trade a star player to being upset that he couldn’t trade prospects.

It should be noted there isn’t even a hint or whiff of such actual headbutting at the highest levels of the Penguins organization. If the owners were in the habit of nixing trades, perhaps Patric Hornqvist would still be in a Penguins sweater.

As PHN and other outlets have reported, the organization came to a consensus some time ago that the core around Sidney Crosby, including Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, should be allowed to retire as Penguins.

Morehouse was sincere when asked about Rutherford’s legacy in Pittsburgh.

“Jim’s legacy is the two Stanley Cup banners that are hanging in our building,” Morehouse said before he praised Rutherford as an adopted Pittsburgher. “The personal relationships he’s made within the organization, within the hockey world, and in the grocery store…”

One can only imagine Rutherford with a buggy full of pierogies, jumbo and toilet paper on the eve of the first snowstorm.

Pittsburgh Penguins GM Search

According to Morehouse, Allvin is indeed a candidate to succeed Rutherford. However, Morehouse also undercut that contention somewhat by stating the Penguins are in “win-now mode.”

In the summer of 2014, Rutherford stabilized the organization in a time of turmoil. The replacement search for GM Ray Shero took a public and ugly turn. The luster of the Penguins organization was tarnished. Rutherford won a Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2005-06 but was fresh off a couple of contracts, including paying the failed Alex Semin $35 million over five years.

It was a match made in heaven as Rutherford quickly reestablished the Midas touch and retooled the organization around the Penguins core players.

As for the search, Morehouse seemed inclined for an experienced hand. He referenced the experience factor in hiring Rutherford, but he declined to say the Penguins want another experienced GM specifically.

“We liked Jim for his experience, but also for his youthful way of thinking about things; his unique perspective. Jim always thought outside the box…,” Morehouse said. “That’s what we were looking for then. Now, looking for something similar. We’re looking for someone who can take this great group of players and hang another banner in the rafters.”

Morehouse, Lemieux, and Ron Burkle will comprise the Penguins search committee. That is similar to the group of people who were pleased to learn of Rutherford’s interest after several weeks of searching in 2014.

“We’re not in a rebuilding mode. We’re in a win-now mode, and we’re going to continue to be in that mode until we’re ready to rebuild,” Morehouse said of the next GM. “Right now, we’re looking for someone to come in and have us work towards winning another Cup.”

Though Pittsburgh ties or Penguins ties are not required, there are a few names likely to surface, including former Buffalo Sabres GM Jason Botterill, the assistant GM in Seattle, and former Penguins AGM, now New Jersey Devils boss Tom Fitzgerald.

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