Penguins GM Rutherford wanted to ‘change the mix’ with Neal trade

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Jim Rutherford is beginning to put his stamp on the Pittsburgh Penguins as the new general manager. He started that by trading James Neal to the Nashville Predators for winger Patric Hornqvist and center Nick Spaling.

It was the biggest trade made during the actual draft, following a flurry of activity, particularly from the Vancouver Canucks earlier in the day.

“I think we were just trying to change the mix of our team a little bit and get a little different type player,” Rutherford told reporters in Philadelphia.

“Hornqvist plays with an edge, goes to the net, works the corners. We like his all-around play.”

A talented forward who has proven to be a scorer in the NHL – he put up a career-high 40 goals only two years ago – Neal has also dealt with injuries on numerous occasions, including concussions, and has run afoul of the league’s player safety department and, as a result, has received supplemental discipline.

His most recent transgression: kneeing Boston Bruins agitator Brad Marchand in the head in December, resulting in a five-game ban.

Rutherford was asked about whether the suspensions played a part in why Neal was traded.

“Everything comes into play when we’re looking at possibly moving a player,” he said.

Meanwhile, the other team is this trade, the Predators, not only land the scoring forward it coveted, but could be taking a shot at landing a center when free agency officially opens up.

That could certainly spark speculation the Predators could be eying pending unrestricted free agent Paul Stastny, who has confirmed he will test the market. Nashville’s club doesn’t appear to be alone in that pursuit.

On Thursday, there was a report from TSN’s Pierre LeBrun that as many as 15 teams had interest in the 28-year-old Stastny.

Stay tuned.