Rutherford: Pittsburgh ‘very appealing’ for free agents, even with ownership situation

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Penguins GM Jim Rutherford says the big news of this week — that owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle are exploring a possible sale — won’t affect how the club works free agency.

“Nothing changes as far as how we run hockey operations,” Rutherford told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We have a great city to play in and the best facilities of anyone in the league with the opening of our new practice facility.

“That should be very appealing to a free agent.”

Just prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, TSN broke news that Lemieux and Burkle hired Morgan Stanley “to explore the possibility of selling some or all of the NHL franchise.”

Shortly thereafter, the Pens released a statement:

“We conduct periodic reviews of our business and, because we have received several inquiries about the franchise in recent years, we decided to engage Morgan Stanley for their insight and counsel.

“After buying the team out of bankruptcy, ensuring its long-term future in Pittsburgh and creating a strong foundation for continued success, we believe it is time to explore our options.”

Before the club can begin exploring free agents, it needs to reach decisions on the eight players set to become UFAs: Daniel Winnik, Maxim Lapierre, Steve Downie, Blake Comeau, Paul Martin, Thomas Greiss, Christian Ehrhoff and Craig Adams. One decision has already been made — Adams has been told he won’t be brought back — and Ehrhoff’s agent recently suggested his client will go to July 1.

The club also needs a new deal for RFA forward Beau Bennett, and RFA d-men Ian Cole and Brian Dumoulin.