Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford feels very strongly about his team’s current lineup following Wednesday’s acquisition of Daniel Winnik from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“I feel the team we have now has as good a chance as any other team in the league,” Rutherford said.
That being said, Rutherford isn’t about to close the book on any possible future deals between now and Monday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.
“Nothing we’re looking at right now, but I don’t think we should close the door,” Rutherford said. “We have until Monday. We’ll keep our ear to the ground. If something comes along and we think we can improve our team a little bit we’ll take a look at it.”
However, the acquisition of Winnik in exchange for Zach Sill, and a pair of draft picks (2015 fourth-round, 2016 second-round pick) was a key deal to get completed ahead of time.
“This was an important one for us and we’re glad to get it out of the way,” said Rutherford, who prefers to make deals prior to deadline day when prices for players rise dramatically.
The Pens are hard against the salary cap, as they have been all season. Rutherford said the team had to get “creative” to pull off the Winnik trade. Translation, Toronto ate a portion of Winnik’s salary and Sill had to be included to make it possible.
But with so little cap space, the Pens will have to once again be creative in any further transations.
One area that the Pens would have liked to strengthen was on the back end.
“There’s no question the loss of Olli (Maatta for the season) is a big loss for us,” Rutherford said. “Our defense has played pretty well. But we do have young guys out there without a lot of experience that we have to watch. We have some good players in the minors, too. Sometimes you can do that by committee if you have to.”
Rutherford said the Pens aren’t involved in any current talks. But that could change if new players are put on the trade market. For all intents and purposes, it’s likely Pittsburgh will enter the postseason with the current lineup.
“We’ll see what names come up. If new names come out that we haven’t heard yet, then maybe (a trade can be made),” Rutherford said. “There are always different areas you can look at improving. We’ll see what’s available, but there’s a good chance that we’re done.”