The Pittsburgh Penguins have reportedly reached an agreement with Jim Rutherford to make the longtime member of the Carolina Hurricanes' front office their new general manager. The team announced the move on Friday:
Jim Rutherford has been named General Manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, it was announced today by co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle.
Rutherford, 65, one of the most respected executives in hockey, was general manager of the Carolina/Hartford franchise for 20 years and led the Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup in 2006. He stepped down from that position in April of this year.
“Jim has proven himself to be one of the finest executives in our sport, a man who always conducts himself with class and dignity, and we’re excited to bring him to Pittsburgh as our general manager,” Lemieux and Burkle said in a joint statement. “He has a wealth of knowledge and experience that few can match, and he will offer fresh ideas and a new perspective to our organization.”
Rutherford talked about the move, in the announcement:
“I’m excited by this opportunity to return to Pittsburgh and become general manager of a franchise that I’ve always admired,” Rutherford said. “To have the chance to work with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the talented group of players assembled here is something that any GM would dream of. I’m looking forward to getting to work right away – it’s going to be an important summer.”
The Penguins also provided this quote from Rutherford:
Rutherford: “Looking at it from the outside-I expect that we have good character in that locker room, but it’s quiet. It’s a quiet approach"— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) June 6, 2014
Bob McKenzie of TSN provided word of Pittsburgh's choice:
Jim Rutherford is going to be announced as the new GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins. #TSN— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 6, 2014
Rutherford spent two decades in the same role with the Hurricanes before stepping down back in April. Ron Francis took over as the new Carolina general manager.
What's your opinion of the Pens' hire?
At the time the switch was announced, it was expected the former NHL goalie would stay on as team president.
Instead, he's moving to Pittsburgh to replace Ray Shero, who was let go after the Penguins were eliminated from the playoffs last month.
HNIC's Elliotte Friedman provided Rutherford's thoughts on the team's new direction:
"What ownership wants here is a complete change of direction," Rutherford says, including both manager and coach.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) June 6, 2014
Shero oversaw the rise of the franchise over the past eight years, but it captured just one Stanley Cup despite a star-studded roster led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Rutherford will be tasked with improving the supporting cast to bring more titles to Pittsburgh.
Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette calls the reported hire a "major surprise":
TSN is reporting that former Caroline GM Jim Rutherford is going to be named general manager of the Penguins. Would be a major surprise.— Dave Molinari (@MolinariPG) June 6, 2014
Molinari also sheds some light on the coaching search:
Rutherford on next coach: "I have a short list of coaches in mind" and new guy will "have to adjust" to personnel here.— Dave Molinari (@MolinariPG) June 6, 2014
It shouldn't come as a total shock, though. TSN's Darren Dreger linked the two sides on Tuesday and Rutherford, who spent part of his playing career in Pittsburgh, didn't deny the rumors when contacted by Jeff Gravley of WRAL:
Pens interest n former @NHLCanes GM Jim Rutherford? He just told me "I don't have any comment on this as I am under contract with the Canes"— Jeff Gravley (@jgravleyWRAL) June 3, 2014
As mentioned, the Penguins' foundation is perhaps the best in the NHL. Between Crosby, Malkin, Chris Kunitz, James Neal and Kris Letang, there's more than enough top-end talent to make multiple serious runs at the Cup in the years to come.
However, Yahoo! Sports' Nick Cotsonika reports that Rutherford thinks the Penguins have some work to do:
Rutherford: "I don't think we have all the pieces here." Doesn't think the Pens need "sweeping changes" to win the Cup, though.— Nick Cotsonika (@cotsonika) June 6, 2014
Those big names are going to need more support, though. Probably the biggest question mark for Rutherford comes in goal, where Marc-Andre Fleury sports a lackluster .910 career save percentage, which drops to .905 in postseason play.
With that said, it's definitely a favorable situation to enter for the 65-year-old executive.