Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford won the 2015-16 NHL General Manager of the Year Award at the NHL Awards Show at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Long regarded as one of the top wheelers-and-dealers in the NHL, Rutherford used a variety of methods, including the trade route to build the Penguins into 2016 Stanley Cup champions.
Rutherford became the first GM in the post-1967 NHL Expansion Era to manage multiple teams to Stanley Cup championships, having also done so with Carolina in 2006.
This is also the third time Rutherford has claimed top executive honors. He was named The Hockey News ‘Executive of the Year’ in 2002 and ’06, and he was The Sporting News ‘Executive of the Year’ in ’06.
By the time the Penguins hoisted the Stanley Cup on June 12 at the SAP Center at San Jose, 55% of their postseason goal scoring (40 of 73 goals) came from players directly acquired by Rutherford.
Rutherford’s dramatic reshaping of Pittsburgh’s roster began last July 1 when he swung a megadeal with the Toronto Maple Leafs to acquire sniper Phil Kessel, who went on lead the Penguins in goals (10) and points (22) during their championship run.
A few weeks after pulling off the Kessel deal, Rutherford swung another deal with the Vancouver Canucks to acquire Nick Bonino, who alongside Kessel and Carl Hagelin formed the ‘HBK Line’ that combined for 56 playoff points.
The offseason also saw the Penguins sign key free agents Matt Cullen and Eric Fehr.
Pittsburgh’s in-season fortunes began to change for the better when Rutherford made the call to switch coaches on December 11, promoting Mike Sullivan to head coach.
Not long after Sullivan’s arrival, Rutherford began wheeling and dealing again, acquiring smooth-skating blueliner Trevor Daley from Chicago and the speedy Hagelin from the Anaheim Ducks. Later, at the trading deadline, Justin Schultz was brought aboard from Edmonton in exchange for a 2016 third-round draft pick.
It was Rutherford who had the final say in the decision to permanently recall the youngsters from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton that provided the necessary speed and energy Pittsburgh needed, players that included goalie Matt Murray; forwards Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl, Scott Wilson and Oskar Sundqvist; and defenseman Derrick Pouliot.
During the Stanley Cup Final, three players Rutherford brought aboard last season – Patric Hornqvist (2 goals), Ian Cole (1 goal) and Ben Lovejoy (1 goal) – contributed four of the team’s 15 goals.
Rutherford is the second Penguins’ GM to capture this award. Ray Shero earned the title in 2013.
The NHL GM of the Year Award is one of the newer awards, having first been awarded in 2010 to Arizona’s Don Maloney.