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Penguins Add Rutta. Are They Preparing to Trade Defenseman?

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The Pittsburgh Penguins made their first big move of free agency by signing former Tampa Bay defenseman Jan Rutta to a three-year contract.

The obvious question is, does adding Rutta make another of the Penguins’ defensemen more likely to be traded to open some salary-cap space?

If Ron Hextall is looking to deal a defenseman, Vancouver would seem to be a potential trading partner. Not only are the Canucks looking to bolster their blue line, but GM Patrik Allvin and president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford are quite familiar with the personnel here from their time in the organization.

Vancouver has been entertaining offers for center-left winger J.T. Miller and, while re-signing Evgeni Malkin might have dampened the Penguins’ interest in Miller as a second-line center, he still could be intriguing as a left winger on Malkin’s line if Hextall would decide to part with Jason Zucker.

Rutta’s contract has a cap hit of $2.75 million, putting the Penguins’ perilously close to the NHL’s ceiling of $82.5 million.

Rutta will be 32 on July 29. He had three goals and 15 assists in 76 games with the Lightning in 2021-22.

He is 6-foot-3, 204 pounds and won Stanley Cups with the Lightning in 2020 and 2021. He put up one goal and four assists in 17 games during Tampa Bay’s run to the Cup final this year after recording three goals and 15 assists in 76 games during the regular season.

He set career-highs in hits (93), blocked shots (71), assists (15) and plus-minus (plus-25) in 2021-22.

Rutta projects as more of a depth defenseman than a difference-maker, and has been criticized for not taking full advantage of his size and for being guilty of occasional lapses in the defensive zone.

Barring a trade, Rutta would seem to project as a third-pairing defenseman, behind Kris Letang and John Marino and in competition with Chad Ruhwedel for a spot on the No. 3 pair.

That could change if GM Ron Hextall would decide to trade Marino, who has been mentioned frequently in trade speculation since the end of the season, although no one in the organization has publicly suggested that the team is interested in moving him.

This is what the Penguins’ defensive depth chart looks like now:

LEFT — Brian Dumoulin, Mike Matheson, Marcus Pettersson, P.O Joseph.

RIGHT — Letang, Marino, Rutta, Ruhwedel, Mark Friedman.

That’s about how many NHL-caliber defensemen teams like to have in their organization, but maintaining a stable that large might not be practical for the Pittsburgh Penguins, considering that restricted free agent Kasperi Kapanen still needs a contract and that the Penguins appear to still be in the market for a bottom-six forward or two.

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Tom
Tom
1 month ago

ZAR is still available!

Paul
Paul
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom

So is Miller. If HexBurke pulls the trigger, then I’ll change my off-season grade from F- to B+. #Dreaming

Last edited 1 month ago by Paul
Vince Gori
Vince Gori
1 month ago

Saying bye-bye to Marino, Pettersson, or Dumoulin. At least one on the move, maybe more.

Gooey
Gooey
1 month ago
Reply to  Vince Gori

Package one or two of them, plus Kapanen and/or Zucker for a great top six left winger and maybe a couple bottom six wingers…

Bob
Bob
30 days ago
Reply to  Gooey

👍👍👍👍👍👍

maybeTROLLn
maybeTROLLn
29 days ago
Reply to  Bob

a 3 man hockey trade now were talkin

tom
tom
1 month ago

A bruiser to protect Crosby is needed to muscle the other team’s stars.

Stephen Powanda
Stephen Powanda
1 month ago
Reply to  tom

The guy I wanted went to the Flyers for 1.8 mil a year. Still no Truculence!

Alan Smith
1 month ago

The Pens defense is questionable year after year! The new pursuit defense was exciting to watch last season. Still lose out on the net front presence. Seems most of the NHL goals are garbage pick ups in front of the goalies! Swear that is why they get injured when five guys pile up in scrambles! New guys are needed with some size and grit! Got one today!

Jay95
Jay95
1 month ago

I’m kinda seeing a package of a D-man and Kapanen in the making.

Bob
Bob
30 days ago

J T Miller would be Awesome! You know Vancouver wants Marino. Make a package deal and send Zucker there since Johnson covets both that much!

Dan Kingerski
Admin
30 days ago
Reply to  Bob

Vancouver’s interest in Marino has taken on a much bigger life in the Penguins fanbase than in hockey circles.

Johhny
Johhny
30 days ago

So who of Petterson, Marino, Zucker, Kapanen is getting traded for JT Miller or some other stud?

Dan Kingerski
Admin
30 days ago
Reply to  Johhny

I’ll go on a limb and say all four of those players can’t fetch Miller.

Johhny
Johhny
30 days ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

That makes me sad. I hope Jim Rutherford isnt reading your response 🙂

Ujn Hunter
30 days ago
Reply to  Johhny

Well he’s right, but only because all 4 of those players put Vancouver WAY over the cap.

Cal
Cal
30 days ago

Unless something else happens, I am disappointed in the teams f/a signings or non signings. I was hoping for different elements on this team. Archibald? C’mon, there has to be a better choice than him out there. Watching the Penguins getting slapped around gets old after a while. Maybe Hex has an ace up his sleeve to help stop my whining..

maybeTROLLn
maybeTROLLn
29 days ago
Reply to  Cal

yes, let’s complain about the depth signing who help PK

Bob
Bob
30 days ago

Pens sign Josh Archibald? A bruiser of a winger at 5’10 185???

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