Jim Rutherford isn’t one to wait around. The GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins is notorious for making moves well before the NHL trade deadline, opting out of all fuss as the time ticks down. This year has been more of the same, as Rutherford made his biggest trade of the year a week ago by bringing in Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann while finding a home for Derick Brassard. Now, as the deadline approaches the Penguins might just be happy to sit still.
In a new interview with Mike Zeisberger of NHLcom, Rutherford explains that the hope for the Penguins is that they don’t have to make another trade. With Evgeni Malkin and Justin Schultz both expected back from injury soon, the legendary GM hopes that the team plays well enough for him to avoid any additional moves:
As long as our team is playing the right way and at a high level, I don’t feel pressure to do anything on trade deadline day.
Now that isn’t to say Rutherford will definitely avoid the market on February 25th, and he was sure to explain that. But if Malkin and Schultz can impact the lineup like usual, the Penguins should be able to climb out of the hole they’ve dug themselves over the last few games and contend for the Metropolitan Division crown once again. After three straight losses, the team sits five points behind the division leading New York Islanders.
If Pittsburgh does take themselves out of the running at the deadline, it will be interesting to see how the rest of the division reacts. The Blue Jackets, tied with Pittsburgh at the moment for third in the Metropolitan, may have to trade away two of their best players in Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. The Capitals, sitting in second place, don’t have a lot of room to make moves anyway. But the Islanders are a different story entirely. They too have several high profile players scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency, but all of them have expressed an interest in re-signing in New York if possible. The team also has a ton of cap space to bring those players back, or even add several more at the deadline this season.
Several of this year’s top trade deadline targets have been linked to the Penguins, but perhaps the recent acquisitions have cooled any interest. Pittsburgh will be a team to watch over their next eight games, as a stumble could send Rutherford back to the phones to try and improve his team for another Stanley Cup run.