If anyone was disappointed with the moves that Jim Rutherford has made as General Manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins the last few years, it certainly hasn’t been ownership. The Penguins announced today that they have signed Rutherford to a three-year extension that will keep him in his current position through the 2021-22 season. Penguins owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle released a statement about the extension:
We think Jim Rutherford is one of the best general managers in all of sports and, during his tenure in Pittsburgh, arguably the best GM In the NHL. His goal every year is to win the Stanley Cup and that kind of commitment to excellence is what drives us all. Jim is already a big part of Penguins history with back-to-back championships, but his goal is to achieve even more, and we want to help him do that. We appreciate his continuing dedication to the Penguins.
Rutherford was in the final year of his current deal, but will now get some security and renewed confidence from the organization—not that it was waning at all. The legendary GM is likely headed for the Hall of Fame one day, after winning the Stanley Cup three times. The first of those wins came with the Carolina Hurricanes, before winning back-to-back championships with the Penguins in 2016 and 2017.
Known league-wide as a willing trade partner, Rutherford has orchestrated many deals over his career and completed another one just after being given the extension. The Penguins under his leadership put just the right finishing touches on a roster that was ready to compete, and will try to continue to do it going forward. With Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel all entering the latter half of their careers, the time is now or never for the Penguins to try and win another Stanley Cup. Rutherford knows that, and will do everything in his power to bring that sacred chalice back to Pittsburgh once again.
It’s now obvious why former assistant GM Jason Botterill left for the Buffalo Sabres when he had the chance, even though he seemed the heir apparent to Rutherford in Pittsburgh. The 69-year old GM obviously has no intention of retiring in the next few years, meaning there would have been little room for promotion in the Penguins organization for Botterill.