What in the world is Jim Rutherford doing in Pittsburgh?
Is Jim Rutherford okay? (Photo by Ryan Yorgen / NHLI via Getty Images)
One of the greatest gifts professional sport can offer is the opportunity to experience history.
Whether it's Hank Aaron setting the home run record, Wayne Gretzky overtaking Gordie Howe in his career goals, or Cal Ripken Jr. Game plays in a row, the ability to look back at a unique moment in history and say you were there is something magical.
Well my friends, better watch out. Because Jim Rutherford is on an absolute heat right now. And if you can definitely confirm what trader Jim is doing on God's green earth, congratulations - you are the smartest person there is.
First, let's go over some facts. Is Rutherford desperately withdrawing any future foundation from his organization? Yes. Is he constructing a squad that appears to be built to bid goodbye to the 2012 Stanley Cup in five games? Absolutely. And does he utter both sides of his mouth? You can bet on it.
These are all facts. Point it out, however, and senior statesmen's biggest supporters will hit you with another one: Jim Rutherford is bulletproof.
The guy's a Hall of Famer, for Pete's sake, not to mention a three-time Stanley Cup champion and the only GM in the era of the salary cap to win two in a row.
After those consecutive trophies in 2016 and 2017, Rutherford considered the inability to win a third to be perhaps the most devastating suffering of his entire life. Beginning with the 2018 off-season and beyond, he put the penguins on a path of total and unshakable destruction, with the Matt Murray trade serving as the final chapter on Tuesday.
It all started on July 1, 2018, the day Rutherford presented a then 31-year-old Jack Johnson with a $ 16.25 million five-year contract that was doomed from the moment he first got the idea came to mind. Even at the time, Johnson was considered perhaps the worst analytical defender in all of ice hockey. Someone who has the unique double risk of a total inability to drive the ball while choosing to treat the defensive zone like an olive garden. When you are there you are family.
However, everyone signs bad contracts. This is the NHL - financial boat anchors are a pillar of the economy. And with those boat anchors in mind, Johnson's $ 3.25 million cap hit wasn't terrible per se. Rather, it was the way Rutherford doubled the perceived genius of the deal - and then tripled it, then quadrupled it, and so on - that set him apart.
"Here's my summary of the situation," Rutherford told The Athletic's Josh Yohe in a play titled "GMJR Defends Jack Johnson, Wants Him to End His Penguin Career," which was released August 20. "Maybe Jack Johnson isn't like that." good as i think he is. Perhaps. But he's not as bad as all anti-Jack Johnson people think. "
"Whether for someone else or for the penguins, he will play the three years that are still on his deal."
Rutherford bought Johnson out a little over a month later.
Johnson's departure was only possible because Rutherford acquired his replacement - both financially and productively (or lack of it).
When Rutherford referred Patric Hornqvist to the Florida Panthers for Mike Matheson, he managed to swap an analytically ineffective defender for a ridiculously lucrative and undeserved contract for another.
Only if Matheson's current contract expires in the fictional year 2026 will his contract be longer.
Matheson, whose career height is 27 points, didn't exactly have an outstanding result in 2019-20, serving as a common healthy scratch for the Panthers in both the regular season and playoffs, while hitting a cap hit of $ 4.875 million .
Yes, Matheson is actually more expensive than Johnson. And when you combine his earnings with Johnson's $ 1.667 million buyout penalty, the two easily exceed the $ 5.3 million Hornqvist - who was trading on cap reasons - owes for the coming season.
Oh, and that aforementioned $ 1.667 million will eventually come out of Pittsburgh's books in 2026. Exactly at the same time as Matheson. What a fun fact!
Is there more? You better think there's more
In late August, Rutherford gave the Toronto Maple Leafs a first-round pick, potential Filip Hallander and in-depth striker Evan Rodrigues (along with a random Depth D) in exchange for a 27-year-old RFA winger who was signed to a KHL contract . a disappointing defense perspective and Kasperi Kapanen.
Kapanen was, of course, the epitome of the deal, and the price paid for his services was justified by Rutherford's claim that the 24-year-old can play in Pittsburgh's top six and, perhaps more importantly, thrive alongside one of Sidney's Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.
If Rutherford had just done a little digging on the subject or a quick trip to Leaf's Twitter, he would have learned otherwise. The whole reason the Maple Leafs brought Kapans to the trading bloc in the first place was their inability to play in the top six and thrive alongside their own two superstar centers, Auston Matthews and John Tavares.
To recap, Rutherford has the 15th overall win in what many dubbed the lowest draft in recent history (which deserves the potential of employing a high-end employee who earns ELC wages below a flat cap) and the prospect of second place in a penguin pipeline that The Athletic's Corey Pronman considers the second worst in the entire NHL for a player whose previous track record lists him as incapable of fulfilling the two distinct roles for which he was earned .
And these are just the latest steps.
Sure, I could talk about Rutherford's litany of recent mistakes for days. About his failure to maximize Phil Kessel's 94-point season in 2019 and instead swap him for a quarter-finalist and Alex Galchenyuk, who was then treated less than a year later. About his decision to give up a third division club from 2021 in exchange for eight games and two points from a 40-year-old Patrick Marleau. Or even about his desire to imprison Brendan Tanev for six years for reasons beyond human understanding.
But all of that and much more would detract from the latest installment of this enticing saga. The day that began Day 2 of the 2020 NHL Draft when Rutherford sold the goalkeeper who helped him win the Stanley Cups in a row before being Calder eligibility for a second round player and "meh" prospects Ottawa lost.
Talk about Murray's expensive upcoming contract, anything you want. A 26-year-old two-time cup winner should be able to do more than that. He must.
And yet, even if Rutherford reads this piece and makes arrangements for my release from the hockey media business, he can still turn to the two Stanley Cup rings that adorn his coat and feel peace.
Maybe they can find out what he's doing.
More NHL coverage from Yahoo Sports
The Rangers pick Lafreniere with the first draft pick
COMPLETE SHOOTING LIST TO FOLLOW THE STORY: The New York Rangers picked 18-year-old Alexis Lafreniere on Tuesday with the first pick of the 2020 NHL draft, adding another promising player to his young core. Rimouski's left wing of the Quebec Major Junior League was named MVP of this year's World Junior Championship, scoring 35 goals and 77 assists (112 points) in 52 games last season. "I'm very excited to be part of the New York Rangers," said Lafreniere after being selected as the first in the draft, which came in handy due to coronavirus concerns. "I can't wait to see the fans. I've heard a lot of good things about the fans and the building," he said. "I am really honored." The Los Angeles Kings chose the Quinton Byfield center with the second choice before the Ottawa Senators chose the Tim Stutzle center. Stutzle's selection was announced by Jeopardy! Host and graduate of the University of Ottawa, Alex Trebek. The Rangers won their first overall victory after being one of eight teams to fail the Stanley Cup playoff qualifying round in this year's coronavirus-punctured season. Lafreniere will move to winger Kaapo Kakko, chosen by the Rangers with number 2 in last year's draft, 24-year-old goalkeeper Igor Shesterkin and the league's best rookie for the 2015-16 season, winger Artemi Panarin. (Production: Iain Axon)
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