BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Carolina Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford has built teams that have played in the Stanley Cup Finals on two occasions -- winning it all in 2006.
Tuesday, however, he was looking at the big picture, namely trying to make the NHL a safer place for players. NHL general managers are meeting this week at the Boca Raton Resort & Club to find a way to prevent illegal hits to the head. Rutherford is one of eight GMs assigned to study video and research on the subject.
Rutherford chatted with NHL.com about those issues, in addition to a few other topics dealing with his hockey club.
NHL.com: Will there ever be a clear-cut answer to the question of regulating hits to the head?
Rutherford: It's an issue that we'll continue to talk about. When you look at, it's not as cut and dry as we all think -- otherwise you'd be calling a penalty every shift. It's the big hits we're talking about here, where guys are getting hit in a vulnerable position. There's where we have to narrow it down to. We'd all like to try and fix this issue to eliminate the injuries but, really, you have to continue to look at it and have a lot more discussion so that we can do something to fix part of the problem. I don't think there's guarantee, but I do think we've talked about this for a long period of time, so we'd like to see something done (during the three-day GM meetings). But we have to make sure that when we do something, it's right.
NHL.com: Can you describe what it means for a player to be in a "vulnerable position?"
Rutherford: Vulnerable positions aren't only when you don't see the guy coming at you or from the side. You're in a vulnerable position when you're along the boards and the glass too. In fact, that's where a lot of them happen.
NHL.com: You must be pleased with what you accomplished at the trade deadline. Entering the 2010 Entry Draft, the Hurricanes have 11 picks in seven rounds.
Rutherford: We cleaned up a lot of things and were able to do that and save some money at the same time. We cleaned things up for what we'll do in the summertime and, at the same time, we didn't gut our team because we got players back from injury and have still remained a competitive team. Our priority is to make the playoff race interesting. I expect the team to have the same work ethic as we've had last couple of weeks and continue to play. We probably sit in the strongest position among any team to move up in the draft with those three second-round picks we now have. We're positioned very well for this year's draft.
NHL.com: I know you have gone on record saying you don't like the timing of the trade deadline. Why?
Rutherford: I feel it's way too late in the season, and I'd prefer to see it with one-third of season left instead of one-quarter of the season. It's not an easy day for anybody. As far as criteria, we set out building toward our future and building toward the draft. We did what we set out to do at this year's deadline, but I can't sit here and say I'm happy. I'm happy it's over.
NHL.com: Were you ever close to dealing Ray Whitney?
Rutherford: A number of teams expressed interest in Ray. But, I took the same position all along. He's one of the most popular players on the Hurricanes and one of the best, so if I didn't see a deal that made sense for us, it wasn't going to happen. Ray didn't want to go anywhere. If a player wants to stay bad enough, we'll wait for the proper time to negotiate.
NHL.com: Are you pleased with the way your team has performed down the stretch?
Rutherford: We got healthy. Every year, there are different times in the schedule where you're team is tired and we were going through losing streaks and just couldn't get out of it. Now, I feel we're catching other teams at a time when they're tired. It's just all those things have added up.