Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is in perhaps the most difficult position of any general manager in the NHL. Tasked with leading his team to a third consecutive Stanley Cup championship, Rutherford is in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario. Win and he’s merely meeting expectations. Lose and… well let’s not go there just yet.
With pressure mounting on Rutherford and the Penguins by the day, something’s got to give. Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette predicts that the team will make a trade to bolster their offense sometime between now and the NHL’s February 26th trade deadline.
“The Penguins remain interested in adding a third-line center who can bolster the team’s offense,” reports Mackey. But the sense is that Rutherford isn’t willing to meet the demands of the trade market just yet.
“General manager Jim Rutherford isn’t going to pay through the nose to get [a third line center], especially not while the team’s winning.”
Last night’s 5-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks notwithstanding, the Penguins have looked better as of late. And the Jake Guentzel experiment in the 3rd line center spot is producing positive results. Still, Mackey believes Rutherford will make a deal, perhaps utilizing his most public trade piece, veteran defenseman Ian Cole.
According to Mackey, Cole’s agent, Kevin Magnuson, “remains active in pursuing a new team for his client.” Could Cole be moved for some depth help? Fans and analysts have connected the dots on a Cole trade with the Edmonton Oilers for pivot Mark Letestu. Ditto for the Toronto Maple Leafs and center Tyler Bozak. Could there be a deal there for Rutherford to strike?
Regardless of what ultimately happens, don’t be surprised if things come down to the wire. While Rutherford has proven that he’s willing to strike at a moment’s notice, it’s clear that he’s taking a more patient approach with this year’s edition of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Whether or not that patience will be rewarded however, remains to be seen.