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Rutherford Says Jack Johnson Must Compete, Pettersson Off Limits

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Pittsburgh Penguins Jim Rutherford, Jack Johnson, Mike Matheson Penguins trade

The Pittsburgh Penguins trade fallout continued after the Penguins traded Patric Hornqvist to the Florida Panthers for defenseman Mike Matheson and bottom line forward Colton Sceviour. The move may have been the last significant addition of the Penguins offseason, according to GM Jim Rutherford, who spoke on the Penguins flagship radio station to host Mark Madden, as the GM also firmly removed any speculation around a pair of defensemen.

As PHN cautioned fans on Thursday, and Rutherford also expressed the possibility bordering on probability, the Penguins third defense pairing will be Matheson on the left side and Johnson back to the right side, where he began his Penguins career last season.

However, Rutherford indicated he was evaluating a trade, though it would certainly not involve left d-men Brian Dumoulin or Marcus Pettersson.

“I think it’s fair to say if we were playing a game tonight is going to be Dumoulin, Pettersson, and Matheson. We’re going to have to move somebody out, or somebody is going to have to play the right side. We’re just working through that now, looking at what the options are.”

You may listen to the full radio segment here.

Rutherford firmly closed the door and said he would not listen to offers for Dumoulin or Pettersson. Still, he left open the possibility the Penguins could insert depth defenseman Chad Ruhwedel.

“(The Hornqvist trade) means (Jack Johnson) will have to play the right side, or he wouldn’t be in the lineup,” Rutherford said. “I think Chad Ruhwedel has more to give. (Ruhwedel is a very consistent guy.

“It will be very competitive for that sixth spot.”

Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan has not in the previous two seasons inserted Ruhwedel ahead of Johnson, even when Johnson was forced to play on his off side, so it seems at least a likelihood the Penguins third pair will be Matheson-Johnson.

Rutherford expressed confidence that Matheson will easily overcome his multi-year struggles with the help of Pittsburgh Penguins assistant coach Todd Reirden and head coach Mike Sullivan. Rutherford also confirmed PHN’s scouting report that Matheson’s has crashed in the last two seasons, and confidence has been an issue.

“He can really skate. He’s got to adjust his game a little bit, but with our coaching staff, we feel he can do that. It was one of those trades that was tough to make the decision on, but when you break it all down, we felt we had to do it.

He was really good when he came into the league. It’s my understanding now, maybe at times he tries to do too much,” Rutherford said. “At certain times when a play is not there, and when it doesn’t work out, he’s hard on himself … that’s what he’s going to have to work on and fix. But, as for his footspeed, and being able to jump into the play … he can certainly play the style of play that we want to play.”

As for free agency and additional splashes, Rutherford downplayed those possibilities. According to the GM, the Penguins will not be active in the first 48 hours of free agency, but may look at players “who fall through the cracks.”

That would seem to end any speculation or Penguins rumors surrounding Vancouver Canucks defenseman Chris Tanev.

Rutherford also indirectly confirmed Penguins goalie Matt Murray will be traded, but also seemed to indicate Dominik Simon could be traded or non-tendered.

“We do have two restricted free agents, Murray and Simon, that will be tough to fit into our cap,” the Penguins GM said. “We’re going to have to see where this goes in the next 10 days, as to what the possibilities are.”

At the beginning of the interview, Rutherford did concede the Pittsburgh Penguins cannot replace Patric Hornqvist but his reduced role moving forward made him expendable.

“No. We don’t (have anyone who can fill that role). Make no mistake, Patric is going to be missed.”

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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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Dean
Dean
1 year ago

If there is a brain in their head, there is no way in the world that Sullivan/JR should saddle Matheson with Johnson. That would all most guaranty that Matheson would be a bust. Matheson needs a solid partner so that his confidence can grow, not one of the league’s worst defenseman. Really have to hope that GMJR was signaling the end of the JJ disaster. They should buy him out and not waste an asset to move him. Hate to take the cap hit for 6 years, however just factor it in and move on.

Lynchie
Lynchie
1 year ago
Reply to  Dean

I continue to wonder why Rutherford gave Johnson such a long term contract especially when you consider he had not performed and that is why he was traded. Rutherford of late has traded for players at the end of their careers and were never going to perform as expected

Steve
Steve
1 year ago

Trading Hornqvist and raising the Cap has to be the dumbest move outside of offering Johnson a long term contract. And Matheson has a long term contract as well, even longer than Johnson’s original contract. Johnson needs to be. Matheson May cost the Penguins a first pick and a good prospect to get rid of. I don’t know if JR’s strategy is to make the Penguins so bad that they might get the number one overall pick in the year that Crosby and Malkin retire, but it sure seems that way. They removed a heart and sole player like Kunitz… Read more »

Ed Andrews
Ed Andrews
1 year ago

I have a feeling Letang is going to be moved and replaced by Marino, are still going after a 3rd line ctr after getting Colton Sceviour a 4th rd pick (is this guy any good?).If Schultz took less do you think they would resign him?

concerned penguin fan
concerned penguin fan
1 year ago
Reply to  Ed Andrews

marino is already better than letang

Karen Kasavage
Karen Kasavage
1 year ago

Play JJ on his offside (which that experiment went horribly wrong when JJ was forced to play that side due to injuries) or put in a career 7th d man + Put a confidence prone d out there with JJ, recipe for disaster. So now we are basically stuck without a net front presence, a 3rd line with no certainty of who (other than McCann) will be on that line, no salary cap room to actually try to improve the glaring holes, a very susceptible 3rd d pair, some very peeved off players (and fans), and missing the leadership and… Read more »

billvill
billvill
1 year ago

Or what Jim? You’ll respectfully ask Sid if you can get rid of him?

Zane Gearhart
Zane Gearhart
1 year ago

At the beginning of the off-season we needed to address a few key issues ( non in any particular order): 1. 1st line right wing 2. 3rd line center (revamped entire 3rd line) 3. Right side 3rd D Even if you question the quality of it, GMJR did address the 1RW. It was an expensive overpay but they actually attempted to address the weakness. We’ve tried numerous times to find a 3rd line center over the past few years and unfortunately used a ton of resources trying to do so. So far this off-season we gave bjugstad for a 7th… Read more »

Ed Andrews
Ed Andrews
1 year ago

Im hearing Jr trying to trade JJ to Detroit which is a pretty bad team, not sure what woul be comp

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