Pens GM Jim Rutherford Says He Knows Johnston Is The Right Guy
PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – Pittsburgh Penguins General Manager Jim Rutherford joined the Cook and Poni Show on Thursday to discuss the Pens hiring of Mike Johnston as their new coach and what might be a very busy weekend for player movement during the NHL Draft in Philadelphia.
The guys opened by asking Rutherford about how active he may be this weekend?
“You know, it’s always hard to read. We talk a lot at this time of the year and all parts of the year, but you never really know when something is going to work for two teams,” Rutherford said. “I think there will be a bunch of trades with so many teams trying to lower payroll for budget reasons or getting their cap in order so there will be some pretty good movement. It’s hard to read at this point how much the Penguins will be doing it.”
Rutherford confirmed to the guys that he has had no discussions yet regarding trading their first round pick, but it’s something he would consider if it brought a player back that could help the Penguins right now.
Rutherford told the guys that it’s very likely the Pens will need to move a player or two to free up cap space, but they don’t know yet what the cap will be and that is something they will learn about today and will determine just how much the Pens will need to do.
Could James Neal be one that is on the block for the Pens?
“It’s fair to say that because rumors started prior to me getting the job here, I have had a number of calls from teams inquiring about him,” Rutherford said.
Rutherford says the Pens are looking to bring more balance to their forwards and may have to dip into free agency to do it, but it probably won’t be one of the bigger names because of their cap situation.
Rutherford says he is happy with the process, which ended yesterday with the announcement of Mike Johnston, a junior coach from the Portland Winterhawks being named as the new head coach of the Penguins.
“In Mike Johnston’s case, he was on my first list but it was my understanding that he had the coaching job in Vancouver and so I didn’t talk to him immediately. But once I found out somebody else got it, I got right on it,” Rutherford said. “I feel good about the process and I feel very good about the selection we have.”
Rutherford also said he was very pleased to be able to add former Penguins’ Stanley Cup winner Rick Tocchet to the coaching staff.
“This is a very qualified hockey guy with great character,” Rutherford said. “It’s really the kind of guy that could really help that dressing room. We were very fortunate that we could bring him on board.”
Rutherford said Jacques Martin could be considered by Johnston for his coaching staff, but if he is not considered than it would be up to him to find the right spot for him in the organization.
Rutherford also did confirm to the guys he has indeed met with the Penguins’ captain Sidney Crosby, but has not yet spoken with Evgeni Malkin because he has been hard to track down.
He also told the guys he is comfortable going into the season without an extension for Marc Andre-Fleury.
“I am comfortable with Fleury as our goalie. I like the year he had last year. It was a very consistent year. I thought he played well in the playoffs. It certainly wasn’t goaltending that eliminated the team last year, ” Rutherford said. “I’m comfortable with him. It’s just a matter of looking into this more and deciding if an extension is the right thing or if we want to let this play out.”
Rutherford says he is not surprised by anything thus far in his new role, but admitted he came in at a busy time for a general manager. He says he is happy with the progress so far and happy with his decision to return to the game.
“This is not an opportunity you get everyday to go to an elite franchise and win. When you are in our business, your goal is to win a Stanley Cup. I have won one. I would like to win more than one, and that is why I took this job,” Rutherford said.
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)