Minor Deadline Moves by Rutherford a Good Sign

The Penguins made a couple of minor moves on 2016 NHL Trade Deadline Day. And I’m completely cool with that.

Those moves were…

  • Sergei Plotnikov traded to Arizona for an AHL winger and a seventh round pick
  • Acquiring Dustin Jeffrey, Dan O’Donoghue and defenseman James Melindy in exchange for minor league center Matia Marcantuoni
  • Losing David Warsofsky to New Jersey on waivers (this one kind of sucks a little bit)

It’s well documented at this point that the Pens have very little cap space to work with. They also have very few draft picks to work with in the near future, as many have been dealt in past years to bolster the NHL roster.

Those are pretty big factors, in my opinion, and I think general manager Jim Rutherford’s decision not to “rock the boat” on deadline day was a smart one (smart decisions are surprisingly enough becoming his forte lately). This whole scenario played out appropriately.

First off, Rutherford identified players that were off limits when it came to making deals, and he actually stuck to his word. Oftentimes since he’s taken over as GM in Pittsburgh, we’ve heard GMJR say one thing and do the other. A number of times, he’s claimed to not be in on any deals — to not be looking to add a player — only to then make a deal and add one.

Now, perhaps that’s just good managing.

“Don’t show your cards.”

“Make them come to you.”

As a fan, though, it makes days like the trade deadline one of great wonder, anxiety, and uncertainty.

Before deadline day, Rutherford said he wanted to protect the franchise’s few strong young prospects in Derrick Pouliot, Matt Murray, and Daniel Sprong. He did just that, and I think that’s important.

I’m all for the win-now mentality when it comes to the Penguins. The best players on the team are in the prime of their careers. It only makes sense.

But given the mismanagement of years past, which resulted in a slew of young prospects and draft picks shipped off for blockbuster trade deadline deals, I’m more for the reserved win-now approach.

Does that make any sense?

I talked about this in detail in our last Pens episode. Basically, what I’m saying is I’m all for trying to make moves to win now, as long as it doesn’t cripple the few assets the franchise has left.

First round picks and a slew of standout young talents don’t exist anymore, aside from the names I mentioned above. It’s important to keep those guys in the fold and try and supplement the core in order to try and win now.

I think Rutherford did a good job of that, and really all of his work was taken care of a while ago. It’s well documented that Rutherford likes to make deals earlier in the season so the team has time to jell. He did that by making moves like trading Rob Scuderi for Trevor Daley, and David Perron for Carl Hagelin.

Add to that a pre-deadline deal to acquire defenseman Justin Schultz from Edmonton for a 2016 third round draft pick.

Those guys aren’t the Jerome Iginla deal — they’re not gonna steal the headlines. However, the first two have already proven their worth in making this team just a little bit better. I think Schultz, who at worst is a better option than Ben Lovejoy, will probably add a little something similar.

No player on the market that was realistically attainable was going to make the Penguins a drastically more dangerous hockey team. They can do that themselves in the form of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin actually showing up and producing in the playoffs. Add to that some solid goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury and improved play from the blue line, and I think the Pens might have something that can win a round or two.

That’s a pretty good outlook, considering where this team was in early December. Despite how crazy and unpredictable he seems to be, I think Rutherford deserves some credit this time around. One can’t forget, too, that Rutherford made the decision to fire Mike Johnston to bring in Mike Sullivan, which has resulted in a reinvigorated style of play and greater success on the ice.

The Penguins actually seem to be doing things the right way. And I’m cool with that.

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