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Rutherford has improved Penguins since becoming GM

Trading for Kessel, Hornqvist, Hagelin among general manager's best moves

by Wes Crosby / NHL.com Correspondent

Jim Rutherford has been general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins since June 6, 2014. In the two seasons since, he's made numerous trades to help improve the roster, and it's paid off this season with the Penguins four wins away from advancing to the Stanley Cup Final.

The Penguins play the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final beginning Friday at Consol Energy Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Pittsburgh had Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury and Kris Letang prior to Rutherford arriving, but he's made some pretty good moves since, which have made the Penguins into contenders.

Here's a look at the five best trades Rutherford has made:

1. PHIL KESSEL

On July 1, 2015, Rutherford acquired forward Phil Kessel in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs involving six players and draft picks. Pittsburgh traded defenseman Scott Harrington, forwards Kasperi Kapanen and Nick Spaling, and first- and third-round picks in the 2016 NHL Draft for Kessel, forward Tyler Biggs, defenseman Tim Erixon and a second-round pick in 2016. Kessel leads the Penguins with 12 points in 11 games this postseason.

Video: WSH@PIT, Gm6: Kessel nets a pair in Game 6

2. PATRIC HORNQVIST

In his first roster move as Penguins general manager on June 27, 2014, Rutherford acquired forwards Patric Hornqvist and Spaling from the Nashville Predators for forward James Neal. Spaling was part of the Kessel trade the following offseason, but Hornqvist is currently Pittsburgh's first-line right wing, playing alongside center Sidney Crosby. Hornqvist is tied with Kessel for the team lead in goals (five) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

READ MORE: Penguins general manager has built a winner

3. CARL HAGELIN

On Jan. 16, Rutherford acquired speedy forward Carl Hagelin from the Anaheim Ducks for forward David Perron and defenseman Adam Clendening. Perron was struggling after initially flourishing with the Penguins, who acquired him from the Edmonton Oilers on Jan. 2, 2015. Hagelin wasn't producing in his first season with Anaheim, scoring four goals and eight assists in 43 games. Since joining the Penguins, Hagelin has 35 points (14 goals) in 48 games in the regular season and playoffs.

4. NICK BONINO

On July 28, 2015, forward Nick Bonino was traded for the second time in two years, when the Penguins acquired him, along with Clendening, from the Vancouver Canucks for center Brandon Sutter and a third-round draft pick in 2016. Sutter had been Pittsburgh's third-line center since it traded forward Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes on June 22, 2012. Bonino, centering Hagelin and Kessel, has 10 points in 11 playoff games.

Video: WSH@PIT, Gm6: Bonino buries rebound to clinch series

5. TREVOR DALEY

Rutherford acquired defenseman Trevor Daley from the Chicago Blackhawks for veteran defenseman Rob Scuderi on Dec. 14, 2015. Daley's addition provided another top-four defenseman with an offensive spark, which Rutherford sought since prior to this season. He played a pivotal role in defeating the Washington Capitals in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Second Round, when the Penguins were without suspended defenseman Kris Letang. Daley played 28:41 and scored Pittsburgh's first goal in a 3-2 win that gave the Penguins a 3-1 series lead.

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