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Rutherford on Fleury, Botterill and contracts

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford addressed the media on Friday afternoon. Here are some highlights from that availability….


Rutherford approached the podium and opened with some shade.

"Good morning," he said. "I'll try not to keep you guys too long. That's usually how (the media) starts off when you call me."


As expected, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was a topic of conversation.

Despite having two No. 1 goaltenders on the roster and not enough playing time for both, Rutherford said back in training camp that his preference would be to keep both for the whole year.

Rumors swirled that Fleury would be traded because the team could possibly lose a goalie to Las Vegas in this summer's expansion draft. And the team would likely opt to keep Matt Murray, who is younger at 22, cheaper and just led the team to a Stanley Cup championship in 2016.

But Rutherford never changed his mind on Fleury's standing with the team.

"I never changed my position from the start of camp. I never wavered on it," Rutherford said. "I had some calls during the season asking about him. Those conversations didn't go very far."

As luck would have it, the Pens ended up needing both goaltenders. When Murray suffered a lower-body injury during warmups prior to Game 1 of Round One against Columbus the team turned to Fleury.

Since that time, Fleury has been the team's most valuable player, going 8-4 with a 2.55 goals-against average and .927 save percentage. He was at his best when the team need him most, stopping all 29 shots against to record a shutout in the decisive Game 7 against Washington in Round Two.

Without Fleury to ride in on his white horse and save the day for the Pens, their season would have ended already.

"If I had decided to trade the goalie, we wouldn't be in this (interview) room right now. You'd be in another room in another city because Marc has been such a key guy in these two series," Rutherford said. "In the Washington series I thought we played two good games as a team, Game 4 and Game 7. If it wasn't for our goaltender we wouldn't have won the series."

It's been a difficult year-plus for Fleury. He's been the team's franchise goaltender since being drafted No. 1 overall in the 2003 NHL Draft. But a concussion forced him to miss the start of the 2016 postseason.

All he could do was watch from the bench as Murray led the team to its fourth Cup title in franchise history.

This season Fleury split the goaltending duties with Murray. He played in 38 games, much fewer than the usual 60-something games he's used to.

But through it all Fleury has been a good teammate, putting his team above his own wishes while remaining a source of support for the younger Murray.

For Fleury to be reemerging for the Pens and enjoying his current success brought a smile to the lips of Rutherford.

"I can't be happier for Marc," he said. "To me, he is one of the best team players in all of sports. To see how he handled the situation and how he's played these two rounds, I couldn't be happier for the guy."


The Pens lost one of the best people in the player personnel business with the departure of Jason Botterill, who accepted a job as general manager of the Buffalo Sabres.

Botterill, who has served as associate/assistant general manager for the Pens for the past eight seasons, is highly respected in the hockey world for his managerial skills, cap maneuvering and scouting capabilities.

Botterill has been highly sought after by several organizations. So Rutherford "wasn't surprised" to see the Sabres hire him.

"He's a guy that's on the top of every list for the last couple of years when there were openings," Rutherford said. "Shortly after they made the change in Buffalo, I got the call from the president. They asked for permission. I met with Jason at that time. We talked about a lot of different things. Then he went for the interview. Then he went for the second interview. Once I got the call that he was going for the second interview I knew that he was going to end up there."

With Botterill's departure, the Pens will undergo some reorganization at the top. Three people still within the hockey operations department that Rutherford will speak with are assistant general manager Bill Guerin, VP of hockey operations Jason Karmanos and development coach Mark Recchi.

"I'll see what they want to do," Rutherford said. "I'll sort out what they want to do and what I want them to do. I'll be happy and they won't."


Rutherford gave the media his philosophy on player contract negotiations. During the season, there is no negotiating.

"No communication at all. When we're playing I feel that it's important that the player plays," Rutherford said. "There is an appropriate time to negotiate the contracts. The player knows where he stands, the team knows where he stands."

Rutherford said that by keeping negotiations out of the season helps both parties from wasting a lot of time. After the Carolina Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup in 2006, Rutherford had 13 free agents to deal with in a 10-day span.

But that's the way Rutherford prefers to handle the matter.

"For me it's a lot easier that way because you cut out all the baloney in between, going round-and-round about things that don't matter," Rutherford said. "When you get down to the end you get right to the point."

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