BUFFALO, New York – It was a quiet day for the Pens on Day 1 of the 2016 NHL Draft at First Niagara Center.
That’s because the team used its 1st-round draft pick – which would have been 30th overall – to acquire Phil Kessel from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“It was quiet,” general manager Jim Rutherford said. “I like it. There’s lots of time to do things. Of course, we’d like to have a 1st-round (pick), but not at the expense of Phil Kessel.”
Here are a couple more notes from Rutherford…
*The biggest question surrounding the Pens entering the offseason – and perhaps next season – is their goaltenders.
They have both Marc-Andre Fleury, the franchise goaltender, and Matt Murray, the youngster that led them to a Stanley Cup, both under contract for next season. And that’s the way the team likes it.
“That’s the preference,” Rutherford said. “That’s been our preference from the end of the season. Unless something really strange happens, that’s what we’re going to stick to.”
The hot rumor heading into the draft was that Calgary was seeking a goaltender and expressed interest in Fleury. That rumor was squashed when the Flames acquired Brian Elliot from St. Louis.
Even though the Pens are against the salary cap and could lose one of their netminders in the expansion draft to Las Vegas, Rutherford’s reaction to Elliott to Calgary was meh.
“It had nothing to do with anything we were doing,” he said. “There’s a few different ways of accomplishing what we may need to accomplish come expansion draft.”
If the Pens do enter the season with both netminders, the team’s GM wasn’t anointing either one the starter.
“We’re not playing any games until next fall, I’ll let the coach sort that out,” Rutherford said. “We have two very good goalies.”
*Rutherford didn’t have an update on negotiations with unrestricted free agents to be Ben Lovejoy, Matt Cullen or Jeff Zatkoff.
“I don’t have any update on them at this point,” he said. “Our nose is right against the cap. We may be a little active on the 1st of July, but it’s not going to be one of the top guys, maybe some other guys we’ll look at.
*Rutherford likes the depth at this year’s draft. The Pens have two 2nd-round picks on Day 2 (55th and 61st overall).
“It’s a very, very deep draft,” he said. “Our guys feel good that we’ll get two good players that will play as Penguins someday.”
Rutherford’s philosophy is to take the best player available on the board. However, he did note that the team has a lack of depth on the blue line and would like to fill some holes.
“Based on where our organization is at ideally we get at least one defenseman, maybe two,” he said. “We’ll see how it falls. The preference is to get a defenseman.”
*The Pens are hoping to re-sign assistant coach Jacques Martin to a new contract. Both sides are confident the deal will get done.
“We want him back. He wants to come back,” Rutherford said. “He and I will sit down next week and try to get everything ironed out. I’m not concerned about it.”