The money saved has been far less than the age reduced. Pittsburgh Penguins over 30-years-old have become a rare breed of flightless bird, and only the remarkable remain. After a pair of embarrassing postseason failures and an aging roster, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford has taken a hacksaw to his roster’s older limbs this offseason.
The problem is: those older limbs recently received leafy green contracts.
Rutherford is renowned for quickly fixing mistakes. In came Tanner Pearson, and out went Tanner Pearson. In came Erik Gudbranson and out went Gudbranson. Same with Jamie Oleksiak and others who spent a year or less with the Penguins. In full disclosure, we don’t think Gudbranson or recent playoff hero Oleksiak were mistakes, but Rutherford acted swiftly to adjust his roster, regardless.
First, Rutherford dealt center Nick Bjugstad to the Minnesota Wild. Rutherford didn’t sign him to a contract in the past few years, but Bjugstad is 28-years-old and was the third-oldest forward behind Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin,, and Jason Zucker. After an injury-plagued year, the Penguins ate half of the $4.1 million owed to Bjugstad next season.
The trade left only Jared McCann as the only remnant from the Derrick Brassard debacle, in which the Penguins spent mightily to get Brassard but, in the end, dumped the unhappy center off on Florida and sent a care package of draft picks, too. The Bjugstad trade was less of undoing a mistake and more just ridding themselves of a player from a failed trade who didn’t work out.
This brings us to the purge, which began a couple of weeks ago. Were the contracts a mistake, or was Rutherford a victim of circumstance from a flat salary cap?