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.
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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.
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.