Jim Rutherford: Defense Was Priority; Kapanen Could Grab A Roster Spot
PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – Penguins General Manager Jim Rutherford joined Colin Dunlap, Josh Miller, and Jim Colony on “The Fan Morning Show” on Wednesday to talk about his team’s moves on the first day of NHL free agency.
Rutherford isn’t rushing to fill out the team’s depth chart, even though there might appear to be some holes in it.
“I feel that watching our competition in the East and seeing what the competition really is trying to decide leading into the trade deadline is, you know, do we need to improve the team, or do we feel like we’re strong enough to win the East? That’s why at this point in time, I don’t feel the need to necessarily run out and get all the players we need, unless the right player comes along at the right price,” Rutherford said. “And the right price is hard to find the first part of July.”
He confirmed that he did have Nikolai Kulemin on his radar, but said that he wasn’t going to let Kulemin’s friendship with Evgeni Malkin force him into signing Kulemin.
“We don’t necessarily go after players just for the sake of friendship, of course,” Rutherford said. “But, Kulemin’s a good player. He was on our radar. When we got to yesterday, and [Christian] Ehrhoff was available, and we were able to do the kind of contract we could with him, he became a priority.”
Rutherford told the guys that he felt a sense of relief when he brought in Ehrhoff.
“One of my concerns from day one when I got this job was – I was pretty sure that [Matt] Niskanen or [Brooks] Orpik would move on,” Rutherford said. “And with that, with our good young defensemen coming, I had some concerns about our defense. We have a lot of young defensemen that are going to be good in this league for a long time, but losing those two guys and not replacing them with a veteran defenseman, I think, would have made it difficult for us, certainly in the first half of the season. So, I was very, very pleased that we could get Ehrhoff.”
Rutherford feels that there will be more chances to improve up front down the road.
“We’ve got a couple of spots open right now at forward,” Rutherford said. “Whether we just leave them open, give [Kasperi] Kapanen a chance to get one of those spots, some of our depth guys that are targeted for Wilkes-Barre, or we’ll see. Sometimes there can be some great signings after July 1st, whether it’s on the second or a month from now. So, we’ll just see.”
Rutherford pointed to Kapanen’s experience playing with older players and his skill set as reasons that he might thrive once he gets to camp.
“He can skate,” Rutherford said. “He can really skate. May very well be the fastest skater on our team once he comes to camp. He’s a skilled guy. He has good hockey sense. He understands the game, but he’s a very young guy. We have to be careful with that. He’s only going to make the team if we feel that he’s going to be able to handle it.”
The interview can be heard here: