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Kingerski: Comparing Hextall to Rutherford, Roster Needs, & Physicality

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NHL trade, Pittsburgh Penguins, GM Ron Hextall

It’s later August, the temperatures for most of our readers will be in the 90s (that’s about 33 degrees Celcius for our Canadian and Swedish friends who flock to Pittsburgh Hockey Now), while the NHL trade market has gone cold and the Pittsburgh Penguins issues are simmering on the back burner with training camp just a few weeks away.

Call me impatient, but the lack of movement on issues and the NHL trade market surprises me. The slowdown has been league-wide. It’s also why, even now, former Penguins GM Jim Rutherford doesn’t receive wholesale criticism. One of our final headlines before Rutherford’s surprise resignation last January, was “Is Rutherford Saving Cap Space for Impact Trade?”

You knew he was always up to something.

In addition to a pair of Stanley Cups, of course, Rutherford connected with that armchair GM in all of us and stirred the NHL trade market like grandma trying to find just the right balance of the spices in the chicken soup before Sunday dinner.

(That was my Grandmother. Maybe yours made meatballs?)

Rutherford kept us hopping. Or hoping. The next tinker, fix, change, was right around the corner. We don’t need to revisit the trade record right now, but it was always a wild ride.

1. Penguins GM CONTRAST

Sit down for this one.

In GM Ron Hextall’s introductory press conference, he was (perhaps) a little taken aback by the tone of our questions on one matter–his conservative approach, especially on the NHL trade market.

“I’m not a one-trick pony,” he said.

As Philadelphia Flyers GM between 2014-2018, the only first-round pick Hextall traded was to move back four spots in the 2016 first round. He added a second-round pick in the process. He traded down with Winnipeg from No. 18 to 22.

Otherwise, Hextall has acquired a few first-round picks in his GM’ing, including getting one for accepting defenseman Radko Gudas in exchange for Braydon Coburn. And he picked up two first-rounders with Jori Lehtera for Brayden Schenn in 2017 (one of those first-rounders was conditional).

That’s not a judgment or criticism.

Get this bit of contrast–As Flyers GM, Hextall made 14 trades in four years. However, in Jim Rutherford’s final 18 months on the job, from June 15, 2019, to his his final deal in October 2020, Rutherford made 15 deals. In the same four years, Rutherford made 53 trades. 

Let those contrasts soak in for a moment. No judgment on right or wrong. That’s your first whistling slapshot past the Joffa clad mullet. The times they are a-changin’.

2. The current iteration of the Pittsburgh Penguins is surprisingly thin

We’re still unclear if the Pittsburgh Penguins offseason plans were derailed by the Crazy Eddy insane prices of July 28 or if it was always going to be the patient and steady approach.

Early season trades (except for the aforementioned Rutherford) are rare, so don’t expect Hextall to fling open the doors to the NHL trade market in October or November.

However, count me as surprised that the Penguins still have holes in the lineup in late August. To avoid divulging sources, we’ve chatted with several players and players’ camps. We haven’t yet found anyone to admit contact with the Penguins–and it’s entirely to their benefit to lie and say yes. So, we’re pretty sure they were truthful.

That doesn’t mean Hextall is on his hands–it likely means we haven’t fished in the right ponds.

But the Penguins currently lack a right-side defenseman who has proven everyday capability. They haven’t added much offense after losing Jared McCann (unless Danton Heinen has a career year), and who is the fourth center if Evgeni Malkin misses time?

There is no more offense to add via the free-agent market. It’s bone dry in that area.

What about the extra center? Perhaps it is Heinen. Or 29-year-old Michael Chaput, who signed a two-way deal on July 29. Chaput hasn’t scored an NHL point since five assists with the Montreal Canadiens in 2018-19 but did play 15 games over the last two seasons for Rick Tocchet in Arizona.

So, who is the extra center if/when any of the Penguins pivots suffers an injury? Given the Penguins’ infatuation with the injury bug, “when” is the more appropriate question. And having a capable fill-in seems to be imperative. Heinen or Chaput will have to be the second coming of Frederick Gaudreau.

Or the Penguins need to add that to the shopping list.

Tick tock.

3. Penguins fans are right to wonder

Bigger, tougher, physicality…what happened?

4. Brian Burke?

You can still participate in the PHN reader poll here.

I won’t spoil the results, but there was a significant change throughout the day on Monday, especially regarding Ron Hextall’s offseason performance. I’ll publish the final results tomorrow, but strap yourselves in. That’s going to be the fanbase fight this season.

Hextall definitely has the unenviable task of presiding over the final phase of the Penguins Crosby-era dynasty. He is a competent GM with a good eye for young talent. Director of Player Personnel Chris Pryor is an important part of that process, too.

I think I share your surprise with the relative quietness of Brian Burke. He’s not a guy who shies away from a microphone or bold moves. His role wasn’t fully defined publicly, but he said Hextall was the GM and would be in charge of building the team.

Though Hextall reports to Burke.

How patient will Burke be if the Pittsburgh Penguins offseason concludes without addressing the above matters? Might he give Hextall a little nudge?

From what we know of both men from past jobs, it seems quite possible Burke might wait this out but light a little fire at mid-season pending the Penguins fortunes.

Going from division winner to out of the playoffs would be a BIG tumble and not look good unless significant changes for the future were underway.

Of all of the Penguins’ points of drama, that may be the most interesting one.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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Stephen Powanda
Stephen Powanda
27 days ago

Dan I am very surprised at how quiet Burke has been. I was excited when he came aboard but not so much now. I enjoyed JR but eventually the bill comes due and someone has to pay it. I guess that is Hexy. As this team stands now I don’t see them ahead of anyone in the Metro except Columbus. Malkin and Letang are not going to get any better. If we don’t trade them by the trade deadline we won’t get anything for them. They are not going to give us a discount and we can’t afford to give… Read more »

Rob
Rob
26 days ago

Malkin and Letang have no trade clauses in their contracts so they cannot trade them.

Stephen Powanda
Stephen Powanda
26 days ago
Reply to  Rob

Letang has a partial no trade list and I guess the only place Malkin might agree to is Florida.

Katz
Katz
27 days ago

Two smartest people are Tom McMillan and Mike Lange. Cue Kenny Rogers . Theses nothing to be excited about , only waiting for the inevitable drama. All was predictable.

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[…] Comparing the work of current Penguins GM Ron Hextall to his predecessor Jim […]

Frank
Frank
27 days ago

I appreciate the purpose of the column but comparing Hextall to Rutherford is like comparing a Maserati to a ‘75 Chevy Impala. Regardless of what many feel hockey is entertainment and nothing more. He may not be the apple of everyone’s eye but JR made it entertaining. Hextall is closer to watching paint dry.
As for Burke I figure he will be moving on shortly. Nothing is more annoying than bombastic blabber followed by no action. If he quit tomorrow would anyone notice or care?

Sacrcasm!
Sacrcasm!
27 days ago
Reply to  Frank

Exciting offseason moves are what matters. Just ask Washington Redskins fans!

William Maloni
William Maloni
26 days ago
Reply to  Frank

Frank–I have been thinking the same thing re Burkie. I am not sure why BOTH were chosen when only one was needed, especially seeing the Seattle confusion and then no trades for toughness or size.

Ken Colligan
26 days ago
Reply to  Frank

Completely agree. Pens fans got used to Pens being in the headlines. I think management took it for granted. Ticket sales will determine how long they put up wit it.

Michael Hanczar
Michael Hanczar
26 days ago
Reply to  Frank

I don’t see Burke around much longer either.

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[…] Taking a look at the Capitals’ top rival, Dan Kingerski compares Ron Hextall to Jim Rutherford and discusses the Penguins’ roster needs. (Pittsburgh Hockey Now) […]

Kris Francis Peterinelli
Kris Francis Peterinelli
26 days ago

So let me get this straight. We blasted GMJR for making way too many impulse trades, but now we miss them? Do we really think Hextall is just sitting in a chair looking out into space? So he should trade Guentzel or Rust just for the sake of making a trade? Maybe, just maybe he looked and asked around and found nothing that either made us better or that we could afford after Jimmy gave Pettersson and Marino first line Defense money and they are the 3rd pair. News Flash, this isn’t going to be a quick fix.

DaGama
DaGama
26 days ago

“Hextall definitely has the unenviable task of presiding over the final phase of the Penguins Crosby-era dynasty.”

Maybe I’m crazy but having Crosby to build around will never be an unenviable position. Given the current situation it’s won’t be an easy task, but back in 2014-15 things didn’t seem rosy either. We should never give up on the possibilities while Sid is here.

Rob
Rob
26 days ago
Reply to  DaGama

Wow, a positive comment that makes sense. THANK YOU

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[…] Kingerski does a fascinating little compare and contrast of Jim Rutherford and Ron Hextall in Pittsburgh, keeping in mind the work of the latter in the […]

Mark Fisher
Mark Fisher
26 days ago

This is a fringe playoff contender at best unless Jarry plays out of his mind, and a non-Stanley Cup contender even if he does. It is possible that mgmt realizes that and not intent on stop gap measures this coming season. I’d rather them fall to the bottom of the pack.

Ken Colligan
26 days ago

The league has always had people in GM position that were primarily scouting directors. Diverse player acquisition has always been a special talent. Hextall is a scouting director. His resume clearly states it. You can have success with his style but it takes quite a few years. Problem is that the GM rarely sees the conclusion. Especially in this organization. Morehouse is not a patient man. All in all, an odd choice.

trackback

[…] It’s later August, the temperatures for most of our readers will be in the 90s (that’s about 33 degrees Celcius for our Canadian and Swedish friends who flock to Pittsburgh Hockey Now), while the NHL trade market has gone cold and the Pittsburgh Penguins issues are simmering on the back burner with training camp just a few weeks away. Call me impatient, but the lack of movement on issues and the NHL trade market surprises me. The slowdown has been league-wide. It’s also why, even now, former Penguins GM Jim Rutherford doesn’t receive wholesale criticism. (Pittsburgh Hockey Now) […]

trackback

[…] Kingerski: Comparing Hextall to Rutherford, Roster Needs, & Physicality […]

trackback

[…] Dan Kingerski on Pittsburgh Hockey Now:  The Pittsburgh Penguins do have some holes in the lineup which is a little surprising at this point in the offseason. Don’t expect Penguins GM Ron Hextall to make any trades in October and November. […]

trackback

[…] Dan Kingerski on Pittsburgh Hockey Now:  The Pittsburgh Penguins do have some holes in the lineup which is a little surprising at this point in the offseason. Don’t expect Penguins GM Ron Hextall to make any trades in October and November. […]

trackback

[…] Dan Kingerski on Pittsburgh Hockey Now:  The Pittsburgh Penguins do have some holes within the lineup which is just a little shocking at this level within the offseason. Don’t anticipate Penguins GM Ron Hextall to make any trades in October and November. […]

trackback

[…] Dan Kingerski on Pittsburgh Hockey Now:  The Pittsburgh Penguins do have some holes within the lineup which is just a little stunning at this level within the offseason. Don’t count on Penguins GM Ron Hextall to make any trades in October and November. […]

trackback

[…] Comparing Ron Hextall to Jim Rutherford as Penguins […]

Jeffrey S Knipple
Jeffrey S Knipple
25 days ago

Why is Rodriguez never mentioned as a possible Center replacement for the 3rd or 4th line while Malkin is out? All he’s done since he’s been here is work his tail off and fill in wherever he was needed. And why are we talking about missing all the Rutherford trades, unfortunately many of those didn’t work out, of course a few were very beneficial, but majority did not work out. Brought great excitement to fan base, but just didn’t translate onto the ice. Successful clubs have 3rd and 4th lines that don’t have ‘big’ names or ‘big’ contracts but play… Read more »

Dennis
Dennis
25 days ago

Well Dan, you’ve certainly given Hextall more than enough time to reshape the team. I cant believe he hasn’t done that in the six months he’s been here. What are we supposed to do, give him a full season?

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[…] — Looking at how Ron Hextall has been running the Penguins as compared to former GM Jim Rutherford. (PHN) […]

Takes Forever
Takes Forever
25 days ago

Have fun waiting years and years for any of Hex’s prospects to get called up. That is, assuming, they develop…

trackback

[…] Dan Kingerski on Pittsburgh Hockey Now:  The Pittsburgh Penguins do have some holes within the lineup which is a bit of stunning at this level within the offseason. Don’t anticipate Penguins GM Ron Hextall to make any trades in October and November. […]

trackback

[…] Dan Kingerski on Pittsburgh Hockey Now:  The Pittsburgh Penguins do have some holes within the lineup which is just a little shocking at this level within the offseason. Don’t anticipate Penguins GM Ron Hextall to make any trades in October and November. […]

trackback

[…] Dan Kingerski on Pittsburgh Hockey Now:  The Pittsburgh Penguins do have some holes in the lineup which is a little surprising at this point in the offseason. Don’t expect Penguins GM Ron Hextall to make any trades in October and November. […]

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