The general consensus around the Pittsburgh Penguins has been the Derick Brassard trade was General Manager Jim Rutherford’s big splash on the NHL trade market. The heavy lifting or big deals are not likely to come, so cross big names like Mark Stone, Michael Ferland or Artemi Panarin off the list. Probably.
This is Jim Rutherford, after all. The plain-spoken straight shooter doesn’t camouflage his intentions in laborious doublespeak. His creative deals brought the Penguins the only back-to-back Stanley Cup championship in the salary cap era, and it landed him the big fish on the trade market last season.
Rutherford spoke with the league website Friday. He reinforced the notion Penguins fans probably won’t be too excited on trade deadline day.
“As long as our team is playing the right way and at a high level, I don’t feel pressure to do anything on trade deadline day,” Rutherford told Mike Zeisberger of NHL.com. “I’m not saying I won’t do anything. But I feel the team we have, as long as it’s healthy and playing the way we’re capable of, can contend for the Stanley Cup.”
Pittsburgh Hockey Now’s Dan Kingerski agrees with the last statement but places a big if on the Penguins playing the right way.
Rutherford also repeated his stance he wants to see the Penguins at full strength which will include the return of Evgeni Malkin and Justin Schultz. And making the deal for new players Jared McCann and Nick Bjugstad one month before the trade deadline will give Rutherford plenty of time to evaluate the situation.
“The biggest advantage is, you get to see your team with the new players,” Rutherford told the league website. “That gives you an idea as to if you need to make another move at the deadline.”
The Penguins have just three wins in their last 10 games, which is a fact not lost on head coach Mike Sullivan who made significant changes to the Penguins lines on Thursday in Florida.
However, if the Penguins do not pick up the pace, Rutherford may feel pressure. The Carolina Hurricanes have closed to within just one point of the Penguins for the final playoff position in the Eastern Conference. Carolina shutout the Penguins 4-0 on Tuesday.