Brian MacLellan (Washington Capitals), Jim Nill (Dallas Stars), and Jim Rutherford (Pittsburgh Penguins) have been named finalists for the league’s GM of the Year Award, the NHL announced Wednesday.
The winner will be announced at the NHL Awards on June 22.
All three GMs are first-time finalists for the award. Interesting to note that MacLellan and Nill managed teams that saw their coaches — Barry Trotz in Washington and Lindy Ruff in Dallas — named finalists for the 2016 Jack Adams Award.
MacLellan: MacLellan helped build a Capitals team that captured the 2015-16 Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top regular season team. Last summer, MacLellan made two huge additions to the Capitals by signing ‘Mr. Game 7’ Justin Williams and trading for T.J. Oshie. While the Capitals enjoyed a hugely successful regular season, leading the league in wins (56) and points (120) and finishing second in goals-for per game (3.02) and goals-against per game (2.33), they were ousted in the second round of the playoffs by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Nill: The Stars are arguably the most exciting team in the NHL, with a game based on skill and speed, and Nill has helped build a roster capable of playing that style. The Stars finished atop the Western Conference in the regular season with 50 wins and second in the league’s overall standings with 109 points. Already equipped with Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza and John Klingberg, Nill brought to the Stars Patrick Sharp in a trade with Chicago and defenseman Johnny Oduya in free agency. Where the Stars have faced an abundance of questions, especially during the playoffs and in the wake of their second-round exit, is with goaltending and the duo of Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen.
Rutherford: The Penguins have some of the most talented players in the world on their roster — such as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel — but this was a team that didn’t hit stride until the second half of the season. Rutherford fired head coach Mike Johnston in December and replaced him with Mike Sullivan. The Penguins went 33-16-5 under Sullivan to qualify for the post-season. They’re now in the Eastern Conference Final. The Penguins acquired Carl Hagelin and Trevor Daley and traded David Perron and Rob Scuderi during the season, after bringing in Nick Bonino, Matt Cullen, Eric Fehr and Kessel during the off-season. Rutherford’s ability to “retool” the team’s roster earned the recent praise of Sullivan.