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

Jim Rutherford sent shockwaves through the NHL on Wednesday when he abruptly resigned as general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins just seven games into the 2020-21 season. It leaves the Penguins in the unexpected position of trying to find a new GM, a new vision to try, and capitalize on the remaining years of the Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin era.

For the moment, Patrik Allvin has the title of interim GM. While the Penguins say he will be considered for the position, it still seems that the team’s next full-time GM is currently outside of the organization.

Whoever it ends up being, what exactly did Rutherford leave behind for that new general manager to inherit?

Stanley Cup expectations, an aging core, and big decisions

The Penguins have been the most successful team of the salary cap era and have set an extremely high bar for themselves. They have won, and they have done everything in their power to continue winning. That expectation is not going to change as long as Crosby and Malkin are on the roster.

Which brings us to the first couple of challenges a new general manager is going to face. In a way, it’s a sort of a good news, bad news situation.

The good news is you are inheriting a roster that has two future Hall of Famers on it and two players that have been the foundation of three Cup winning teams (and one other Cup Final appearance). That is a good situation to be stepping into because most new GM jobs are not going to have that sitting in the locker room.

The problem: Crosby and Malkin (and Kris Letang, the other big member of the core) are 33 and 34 years old, respectively, and not getting any younger. They are still capable of being great, game-changing players. But it may not happen as consistently as it once did, or to the level that it once did. That means the team is going to need even more support around them in the form of depth. It is going to take some creative roster building to make that work.

[Related: Jim Rutherford resigns as Penguins GM]

Even when Crosby and Malkin were at their absolute peak as players they alone were still not enough to win a championship. It was not until the roster around them was overhauled into something championship-worthy that they won. That is going to be even more true now as they get later into their 30s. As the old saying goes, father time is undefeated.

The challenge here is going to be the fact that Malkin and Letang will be unrestricted free agents after next season (as will Bryan Rust), which means they will be eligible to sign new contracts after this season. This is tricky because they have to be willing to separate what they did for the Penguins versus what they can still do. How much is that worth, and what is a price that works for everybody in terms of compensation and the salary cap?

It still seems like that as long as Malkin wants to be a Penguin, he will remain a Penguin. Letang (and Rust to a far lesser degree) are going to almost certainly be very different discussions.

A very thin farm system

The Penguins have been all in on trying to win nearly two decades now, and that means trading a lot of young assets and draft picks for immediate, short-term help.

The results of that approach…

• The Penguins have made just 35 draft picks over the past seven drafts (minus-14 from where they would have been had they made zero draft pick trades).

• Only two of those draft picks came in the first round. They selected Kasperi Kapanen in 2014 and Samuel Poulin in 2019.

• At this point only five of those 35 players have played a single game in the NHL, and none of those five were drafted after 2015. Of those five, only Kapenen and Sam Lafferty are currently members of the Penguins organization. And it is worth noting that Kapanen was traded in 2015 for Phil Kessel (a great trade for the Penguins) and re-acquired this past offseason.

[MORE: Our Line Starts Podcast: Laine, Dubois trade; Canadiens stay hot]

• Seven of those 35 picks were drafted in the first-or second rounds of their respective drafts. Five of them are no longer in the organization. Daniel Sprong, Calen Addison, Filip Hallandar, and Filip Gustavsson were all traded (in various deals that have netted them Jason Zucker, Marcus Pettersson, the re-acquisition of Kapanen, and Jared McCann), while Zachary Lauzon retired from hockey.

• As of now, they only have five picks in the 2021 NHL draft, with only one of them (a second-round pick) coming within the first four rounds.

The best prospects remaining in the system are Poulin, Nathan Legare, and Pierre-Oliver Joseph. While all of them have NHL potential (Joseph is currently in the NHL), they are not elite level prosepects.

None of this is really a criticism. You only get superstar players for so many years, and you owe it to everybody to maximize their careers. And it is hard to argue with the results in recent years. Since the start of the 2014-15 season (when Rutherford took over) the Penguins have the fourth most regular season wins, the third most playoff wins, and two Stanley Cup banners. Every team in the league would take that over a good prospect ranking and no NHL success.

But, that most recent Stanley Cup victory is now four years in the rear view mirror and the postseason results have consistently slid since then, going from a second-round loss, to a first-round sweep, to a qualifying round loss in the bubble. As the star players get closer to retirement, and the results regress, and the farm system gets thinner … well … you see where this is going.

Some heavy contracts

Rutherford was never afraid to pay a steep price (trade assets or salary cap space) to acquire (or keep) a player he wanted.

That has resulted in some big contracts throughout the lineup. Perhaps in areas where you don’t really want a big contract. Some of the longest current contracts on the team belong to the likes of Brandon Tanev, Mike Matheson, Marcus Pettersson, and John Marino, while they also owe around $1 million per year (and in one season $2 million) paying off the buyout of Jack Johnson.

Other than Marino and maybe Pettersson, all of those players are bottom of the lineup players. Spending more at the top of the lineup does not really hurt you, because those superstars are still probably going to provide more on-ice value than their salary cap number. But when you start paying $1 million more here, $2 million more there on the bottom of the lineup, that can start to add up and cause a cap crunch that forces your hand somewhere else. Brandon Tanev is a good player. But he is so good that you need to commit six years to him? Do you need to trade for six years of Mike Matheson? It adds up.


Assuming they can get through this current rash of injuries on defense and get competent goaltending this is a team that can still compete in the short term (this season, next season). The stars are still capable of dominating, and there are enough good players around them that this window is not closed. But the mid-term and long-term outlook is going to require some serious heavy lifting from the new general manager.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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    Teravainen scores late, Hurricanes rally to beat Rangers 3-2

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    NEW YORK – Teuvo Teravainen scored the tiebreaking goal late in the third period, Frederik Andersen stopped 29 shots and the Carolina Hurricanes rallied to beat the New York Rangers 3-2 on Tuesday night.

    Jalen Chatfield and Stefan Noesen also scored for the Metropolitan Division-leading Hurricanes, who won for the third time in four games.

    With the comeback win, the Hurricanes became the second team – following Boston – to reach the 100-point mark this season as Carolina increased its Metropolitan Division-lead over second-place New Jersey to two points and the third-place Rangers to eight.

    “That was a great effort. All 20 guys contributed and we got what we deserved,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “If we play like that, we’ll be in good shape. This time of year it gets tougher and tougher.”

    Tyler Motte and Kaapo Kakko scored for the Rangers, who had won four straight were 6-0-1 in their last seven. Igor Shesterkin finished with 36 saves as the Rangers played their third game in four nights – the previous two shutout wins at home.

    “Igor kept us in there as long as he could and we just didn’t have enough in the tank,” Rangers captain Jacob Trouba said. ”They won more battles and played a hard game.”

    Teravainen scored his 11th goal with 2:33 left on a pass from defenseman Brent Burns, redirecting the puck past Shesterkin. The Hurricanes, who trailed 1-0 and 2-1.

    “Somehow they left me open in the back side, great pass by him,” Teravainen said of the winning-goal pass to him in the slot. “We knew this would be a tough night. They have a good team. We knew we had to battle to win this game.”

    The Rangers led 1-0 entering the third and were vying for their third-straight shutout before Chatfield tied the score at 9:49 – the first goal the Rangers allowed in more than eight periods. New York was coming off a 6-0 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday night with Shesterkin in goal and a 7-0 triumph over Nashville behind Jaroslav Halak on Sunday.

    Kakko then put New York back ahead 31 seconds later with his 13th goal, only to have Noesen answer right back 18 seconds later to tie it 2-2.

    Motte opened the scoring at the 17-minute mark of the first, knocking the puck past Andersen for his third goal in four games and sixth of the season overall.

    The Rangers hadn’t lost in regulation since a 4-2 defeat on March 4 at Boston.

    “Tonight we didn’t play near well enough to beat that team,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. ”Honestly, the whole game they outplayed us. They were a lot quicker. They managed the puck real well … We didn’t play our game.”


    Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal played his 729th game with Carolina on Tuesday, tying defenseman Glen Wesley for the second-most games played in franchise history since relocation from Hartford in 1997. Staal, 34, trails only his brother Eric, who played 909 games for the Hurricanes from 2003-16.


    Hurricanes: Host the Rangers on Thursday night to finish the home-and-home set in the opener of a four-game homestand.

    Rangers: At Carolina on Thursday night to open a two-game trip.

    Ullmark’s 40 saves carries Bruins past Senators, 2-1

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    BOSTON – Linus Ullmark made 40 saves, Jake DeBrusk had the go-ahead goal and the NHL-best Boston Bruins continued their pursuit of the league’s record for regular-season victories with a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night.

    “I thought he was outstanding and he needed to be,” Boston coach Jim Montgomery said of Ullmark. “Unfortunately we gave up a lot of good looks, a lot of odd-man rushes because of our puck management and he bailed us out like he has all year.”

    David Krejci added a power-play goal for Boston, which won its fourth straight.

    Dylan Gambrell scored for the Senators and Mads Sogaard made 33 stops.

    “We had a shooters’ mentality for two periods,” Ottawa coach D.J. Smith said. “The third period, they’ve won 54 games now, they’re not going to give you an odd-man rush, they’re not going to give you anything. You’re going to have to earn it.”

    The Bruins posted their 54th win and with 12 games left are on pace to break the mark of 62, set by the Detroit Red Wings in 1995-96 and matched by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2018-19.

    Chasing the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot, Ottawa has lost six of seven following a season-high, five-game winning streak.

    Coming off a 3-2 road trip where they won the last three games by a combined score of 15-2 that included two shutouts by backup Jeremy Swayman, the Bruins converted on a two-man, power-play advantage to tie the game at 1 midway into the opening period when Krejci poked in a rebound from the edge of the crease.

    DeBrusk completed a nifty play with Brad Marchand when he collected a pass cutting down the slot at full speed, shifted and tucked a rebound past Sogaard at 15:52 of the first period for his 23rd goal.

    “It was ‘all world.’ I saw him and he fed it through a lot of guys for a breakaway,” DeBrusk said of the pass. “It was one of those passes where I didn’t know what to do. I was going to point at him (after) but I was going too fast.”

    Gambrell’s wraparound score gave Ottawa a 1-0 edge.

    “I thought I played a good game today,” Sogaard said. “I just battled and stayed with it the entire way. … These ones are tough because we were so close.”


    Ullmark stopped 22 shots in the second period with at least a dozen of them high-quality chances. During an Ottawa PP, he jumped from a crouch to make a right-shoulder stop on Alex DeBrincat’s bid from in close.

    “We talked about it,” defenseman Hampus Lindholm said of the second period. “We know we’re a good team in the third and wanted to tighten it up for him. … They got a lot of chances that were our own fault in the second.”


    The Bruins highlighted women who work and compete in the sports community, having Olympic gold medalist and Boston Pride defender Kali Flanagan accompany Bruins players during pregame walk-ins along with local high school scholastic award winners. In addition, in-arena host Michaela Johnson handled the PA for the night and they also left yellow roses at the seats of female reporters.

    NOTES: The Senators entered the game as the only team holding an advantage in their series against the Bruins this season, winning twice in three games. … Montgomery said after the morning skate that defenseman Derek Forbort would likely be sidelined with a lower-body injury at least through the rest of the regular season. … DeBrusk, playing on the top line most of the season, is four off his career-high goal total, set in 2018-19.


    Senators: Host Tampa Bay on Thursday.

    Bruins: Host longtime rival Montreal in an Original Six matchup Thursday.

    Boldy’s goal with 1.3 left in OT lifts Wild over Devils

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    NEWARK, N.J. – Matt Boldy scored with 1.3 seconds left in overtime and Filip Gustavsson made a career-high 47 saves to give the Minnesota Wild a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.

    The game was a chippy, defensive struggle. After two scoreless periods, the Devils were outshooting the Wild 22-19.

    Minnesota finally broke through 6:41 into the third when Mason Shaw scored his seventh goal of the season on a wraparound.

    Timo Meier answered for the Devils five minutes later with his 35th goal of the season on a wraparound of his own.

    New Jersey was unable to convert on a late power play, and the teams went to overtime.

    It was a back-and-forth five minutes of extra hockey, with both goaltenders making good saves. After Jack Hughes hit the post for the Devils, the puck caromed off a post to Boldy and he beat the buzzer with his 23rd goal of the season.

    Vitek Vanecek stopped 27 shots for New Jersey.

    NOTES: The Devils are 10-4 in overtime, while the Wild improved to 4-5.


    Wild: Play at Philadelphia on Thursday night.

    Devils: Play at Buffalo on Friday night.

    Avalanche coach Jared Bednar signs extension through ’26-27

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    DENVER – Colorado Avalanche coach Jared Bednar has signed a three-year extension that will keep him in charge of the reigning Stanley Cup champions through the 2026-27 season.

    The new deal for the winningest head coach in club history kicks in once the current contract runs out after the 2023-24 season.

    Bednar, 51, is the only person to win championships in the ECHL, AHL and NHL as head coach. He directed the Avalanche to their third Stanley Cup title in team history last season by beating Tampa Bay, the two-time defending champions.

    This season, the Avalanche have dealt with an array of injuries, which include missing captain Gabriel Landeskog all year after he underwent knee surgery in October. But they’re starting to creep closer to being healthy – and working their way up the standings. Colorado is riding a six-game winning streak to remain in a tight race with Dallas and Minnesota for the Central Division crown. The top spot in the Western Conference is in play, too.

    “Jared has done a tremendous job behind the bench and certainly deserves this extension and to continue as the leader of our team,” Joe Sakic, the team’s president of hockey operations, said in a statement.

    It wasn’t the prettiest of starts for Bednar in his inaugural season for Colorado. In 2016-17, his team amassed only 48 points (22-56-4) to finish last in the league. Since then, it’s been full steam ahead for Bednar and the Avalanche. They became the first NHL squad to go from worst to first in a span of four seasons or less since the 1970-71 Bruins, according to research by the team.

    In addition, Bednar has led the Avalanche to five straight playoff appearances – and is closing in on a sixth – to become the first Avalanche coach to accomplish the feat. His 40 postseason wins are the second-most in team history, trailing only Bob Hartley (49).

    “His strength as a communicator, his relationship with the players, the way he prepares each and every day is a huge reason our team has been so successful,” general manager Chris MacFarland said. “He is an exceptional leader.”

    Bednar is currently the third-longest tenured coach in the league, behind only Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper (March 2013) and Pittsburgh’s Mike Sullivan (December 2015).

    “Being able to lead this team over the last seven years has been a privilege,” said Bednar, whose team faces the Penguins on Wednesday. “I am grateful and excited to have the opportunity to continue building on what we’ve accomplished so far.”

    Bednar captured a Kelly Cup (ECHL) with the South Carolina Stingrays in 2009, along with a Calder Cup (AHL) with the Lake Erie Monsters in 2016.