By: Joe Kapp

PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) — Pittsburgh Penguins General Manger Jim Rutherford joined Cook and Poni on Thursday to discuss the off-season after repeating as Stanley Cup champions and the foundation being laid for a run at a 3-peat.

The Penguins roster will look different next year as Marc-Andre Fleury, Nick Bonino, Trevor Daley, Chris Kunitz and Ron Hainsey are all gone and one name keeps coming up in trade rumors – Phil Kessel.

But Rutherford seems unwilling to move him right now.

“Kessel is an important part of the Penguins,” Rutherford said. “I don’t want to sit here and say a certain player is not going to get traded at some point in his career. I mean Phil already did, but that is not something I foresee happening now.”

So what about replacing that third line center?

“We continue to talk to teams about it,” Rutherford said. “There are centers right now I could trade for if we wanted to do it today. There are guys that could become available that are higher on our list.”

Rutherford did admit that there are some cap restrictions that could affect what they do.

There is also no word yet on a decision from Matt Cullen on whether he will retire or play again in 2017. Rutherford says they are putting no pressure on him to make a decision, but that the team would love to have him back.

The Pens did make moves to replace Fleury in signing Antti Niemi to backup Matt Murray, and trading for enforcer Ryan Reaves, a forward.

Rutherford said he is happy that they were able to get both guys and admitted that it was a high price to pay for Reaves with trading a draft pick and Oskar Sundqvist, but it was a move that will sit well with the guys in the locker room for the protection that he can provide.

“We didn’t get him to come and fight every game,” Rutherford said. “Cause the fact of the matter is, he doesn’t have too many guys that want to challenge him, but he will be there if any of this nonsense continues in some of the games that I saw this past year.”

Rutherford says there hasn’t but much time to sit back and enjoy the back-to-back Cups just yet because there is so much work to do yet, but he likes what he sees for a chance and a possible 3-peat.

“Teams don’t like us. They don’t want us to win again,” Rutherford said. “I believe we will have a good enough team to do it again if everything falls into the right place and that is where my focus is.”

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