Jim Rutherford resigns as Penguins GM, citing personal reasons

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The Pittsburgh Penguins announced on Wednesday that general manager Jim Rutherford has resigned, citing personal reasons.

Patrik Allvin, who has been with the franchise in various roles since 2006-07 and was most recently serving as assistant GM, will take over on an interim basis. According to the Penguins, the search for a replacement will begin immediately and  “Allvin will be able to consult with the team’s Hall of Fame owner, Mario Lemieux, for input and advice.”

“It has been a great honor to serve as general manager of the Penguins, and to hang two more Stanley Cup banners at PPG Paints Arena,” Jim Rutherford said in a statement. “I have so many people to thank, beginning with the owners, Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux, and team president David Morehouse. There always has been so much support from everyone involved with the Penguins, both on the hockey and business staffs, and, of course, from a special group of players led by Sidney Crosby. The fans here have been tremendous to me and my family. I know it’s a little unusual to have this happen during a season, but just felt this was the right time to step away.”

Rutherford, 71, was hired to replace Ray Shero in 2014 and helped build the Penguins’ back-to-back Stanley Cup champion teams in 2016 and 2017. His current contract was set to expire following the 2021-22 NHL season.

[MORE: State of the Penguins: What is the next general manager inheriting?]

Trader Jim

Not one to shy away from making a trade, Rutherford pulled off 53 deals as Penguins GM, per NHL Trade Tracker. His first came three weeks after being hired when he sent James Neal to Nashville for Patric Hornqvist (That one turned out pretty well). His final swap came in October when he moved pending restricted free agent Matt Murray to Ottawa, clearing the way for Tristan Jarry to take over as the team’s No. 1 goalie.

As our Adam Gretz noted in August, Rutherford had a knack of trading players within a year of acquiring them. Derick Brassard, Alex Galchenyuk, Derek Grant, Erik Gudbranson, Dominik Kahun, Jamie Oleksiak, Tanner Pearson, Ryan Reaves, Evan Rodrigues, and Riley Sheahan all came and went very quickly. In Rodrigues’ case, he was acquired from Buffalo at the trade deadline in February, then shipped to Toronto in August as part of the Kasperi Kapanen trade, and then signed back with the Penguins after failing to come to terms with the Maple Leafs.

An unexpected extended stay

Who would have thought Rutherford would have still been in the job almost seven years after he was hired? He certainly didn’t. “I would suspect my term here is two or three years,” he said at his introductory press conference in 2014. In his mind, he was keeping the seat warm for one of his assistants — Jason Botterill, Bill Guerin, or Tom Fitzgerald; all three of whom later moved on to GM jobs of their own.

After stepping down as Hurricanes GM in 2014, Rutherford said he would consider returning in such a management role if he felt he could win another Stanley Cup. The Penguins were that team and would help him achieve that goal twice.

What attracted Rutherford to Pittsburgh are the same qualities that the next Penguins GM will see with this roster: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang still impactful players; up-and-coming stars in Jake Guentzel and John Marino; and solid veterans filling out the roster in Jason Zucker, Brian Dumoulin, Brandon Tanev, and Bryan Rust.

The Penguins’ championship window remains open and the person who replaces Rutherford will have the benefit of very supportive ownership to help bring the Cup back to Pittsburgh.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

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TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.