When Jimmy Rutherford was a standout junior hockey prospect, no one expected the young goaltender to be such a keen judge of talent and astute trader as a NHL General Manager. His use of analytics and just gut feeling could one day propel him into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
“Trader Jim” has been at work strengthening the lineup for his Pittsburgh Penguins heading into the 2015-16 NHL season.
Rutherford is very aware that even though he has arguably been one of the top hockey players on the planet doesn’t mean his team will be Stanley Cup bound.
He significantly improved the offense this summer. He acquired 30-goal scorer Phil Kessel and signed Russian scorer Sergei Plotnikov. Rutherford also signed unrestricted free agent Fehr to a three-year, $6 million deal, plus dealt Brandon Sutter to the Vancouver Canucks for Bonino, a second-round pick and defenseman Adam Clendening. The Penguins gave up a third-round pick in the deal.
Tuesday’s deal was an opportunity to acquire two potentially key forwards while only giving up one. Bonino is a center, but could move to the wing on either Sidney Crosby’s or Evgeni Malkin’s line.
He produced 15 goals and 39 points last season. Fehr, 6-4, 215 pounds, can take Sutter’s spot as No. 3 center. He recorded 19 goals and 33 points last season.
Sutter has a $3.3 million cap hit, and he would have been an unrestricted free agent next summer. The Penguins believed they wouldn’t be able to re-sign him. Bonino makes $1.9 million, and the savings on exchanging those two players gave the Penguins the cap space required to sign Fehr, who also has the potential to play wing in the top six if the Penguins want size there.
With improvements up front the main thing Rutherford has to be concerned about is defense.The question of whether offensive-minded Derrick Pouliot is ready to step in and be a viable top six defenseman. The Penguins will be improved their defense will be better this season if Kris Letang and Olli Maatta can stay healthy. Both Letang and Maata missed a combined total of over 30 games last season.
Ben Lovejoy, Tim Erixon, Brian Domoulin just a few competing for spots on the Pittsburgh blue line.
Phil Kessel is one best scorer in the NHL and could be the linemate Crosby has beeb seeking to make use of his exceptional playmaking abilities.
Crosby will likely begin training camp playing with Kessel, and Malkin could play with Patric Hornqvist. which leaves Bonino, Pascal Dupuis, David Perron, Chris Kunitz and Plotnikov (36 points in 56 games in the Kontinental Hockey League) to compete for the other spots on those lines.
Rutherford always finds a way to make deals. The season starts in October and Rutherford want to contend for the cup right now..