The National Hockey League announced that Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford is one of three finalists for the NHL General Manager of the Year Award.
This award is presented annually to recognize the work of the league’s general managers. Voting for this award is conducted among the 30 club general managers and a panel of NHL executives, print and broadcast media.
The winner will be announced at the NHL Awards Show on June 22 at the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas.
Rutherford is the third member of the Penguins’ organization who is a finalist for a major award, joining captain Sidney Crosby (Hart Trophy) and Pascal Dupuis (Masterton Trophy).
Rutherford, who is in his second season as Pittsburgh’s GM, dramatically altered his club’s complexion beginning last offseason and continuing throughout the regular season. The result was a fourth-place finish in the NHL’s overall standings, and a current spot in the Eastern Conference Final.
Heading into Game 3 of the conference finals between the Penguins and Lightning, 10 of the 23 players who have skated for the team during the playoffs have been acquired by Rutherford, including four of the team’s top-five postseason scoring leaders, Phil Kessel, Nick Bonino, Patric Hornqvist and Carl Hagelin.
The biggest splash of Rutherford’s offseason last summer came on July 1, 2015 when he swung the blockbuster deal with Toronto for Kessel, whose six goals and 14 points both lead Pittsburgh this spring.
Later that month, Rutherford struck a deal with Vancouver to acquire Bonino and since-traded blueliner Adam Clendening for Brandon Sutter. Bonino currently leads the team with nine playoff assists. On the same day, Rutherford used the savings from that trade to ink Eric Fehr, who has scored a pair of playoff game-winning goals, to a three-year deal.
Finally, in early August, Rutherford signed arguably the steal of the summer, veteran Matt Cullen, to a one-year contract. The reward for that deal was 16 goals in the regular season, and four goals, six points and a plus-4 thus far in the playoffs.
When Pittsburgh struggled offensively at the outset of the season, Rutherford began wheeling and dealing, bringing in two-way blueliner Trevor Daley from Chicago and the speedy Hagelin from Anaheim in a one-month stretch near midseason.
Those two finished second and third in scoring among all NHL players who were traded midseason this year.
Pittsburgh’s fortunes as a team turned beginning December 12 when Rutherford made the call to change coaches, promoting Mike Sullivan from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. From that day through the end of the season, only the Anaheim Ducks accumulated more points than Pittsburgh.
Rutherford also had the final say on making the permanent recalls of several of Sullivan’s top players from WBS – goalie Matt Murray; forwards Tom Kuhnhackl, Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary and Oskar Sundqvist; and defenseman Derrick Pouliot. All of those players have played crucial roles, especially down the stretch and into the playoffs.
At the trading deadline, Rutherford resisted making a major splash, electing to maintain the chemistry his club built. But his one major move, adding defenseman Justin Schultz from Edmonton for a draft pick, has paid dividends each series thus far when Schultz has been inserted into the lineup.
During his 20-year run as the general manager of the Carolina Hurricane franchise, Rutherford was named Hockey News’ ‘Executive of the Year’ in 2002 and ’06, and he was The Sporting News’ ‘Executive of the Year’ in 2006.
The NHL General Manager of the Year Award was first presented in 2010 to the Arizona Coyotes’ Don Maloney. Former Penguins’ GM Ray Shero won the award in 2013 when Pittsburgh finished with the second-best record in the NHL and advanced to the conference finals.