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Behind the scenes of Jim Rutherford's resignation from the Penguins

Botched trades, phone calls, emergency meetings and all the other juicy gossip behind yesterday's announcement.

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In case you missed the news earlier yesterday, Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford announced his abrupt resignation from the team citing personal reasons.


The 71 year old general manager had been GM of the Penguins since the 2014-15 season and was the team's architect of a Stanley Cup championship in 2016 and 2017. He was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2019.

"It has been a great honor to serve as general manager of the Penguins, and to hang two more Stanley Cup banners at PPG Paints Arena," Rutherford said. "I have so many people to thank, beginning with the owners, Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux, and team president David Morehouse. There always has been so much support from everyone involved with the Penguins, both on the hockey and business staffs, and, of course, from a special group of players led by Sidney Crosby. The fans here have been tremendous to me and my family. I know it's a little unusual to have this happen during a season, but just felt this was the right time to step away."

With Rutherford's abrupt resignation and with his age, naturally fans and analysts began to wonder if there are some underlying healthy issues at at play. Not so though says the vibrant Rutherford, it's simply time to step away.


There must be more than meets the eye here...

Penguins radio host Colin Dunlap reports that Rutherford was prepping a trade that would see longtime defenceman Kris Letang leave Pittsburgh, but when ownership got wind of it they shut it down. That created an "untenable" situation between Rutherford and ownership, eventually leading to Rutherford's resignation.

Check it out:


Rob Rossi and Josh Yohe also uncovered some behind the scenes details of Rutherford's resignation and shared them in their latest column for The Athletic that is quite frankly a fascinating read.

Some excerpts:

...before the Penguins took the ice in Boston on Tuesday night, Rutherford told team president and CEO David Morehouse that he was done. There was no talking him out of a decision that became public Wednesday afternoon.
The decision caught employees at every level of the Penguins by surprise and created a chaotic day in Pittsburgh and Boston as team officials, from co-owner Mario Lemieux on down, tried to come to terms with what happened and plot the organization’s next steps.
“All I can tell you is we’re scrambling,” said one senior member of the organization.
“Mario is stunned,” said another.

When it became clear Rutherford hadn’t changed his mind, Morehouse organized a call with select members of the Penguins executive team Wednesday morning when he told them of Rutherford’s resignation and Patrik Allvin’s interim appointment. A search for a full-time replacement would begin immediately, Morehouse said.
Eventually, the news made it to the Penguins’ traveling party in Boston on Wednesday, an off day between games against the Bruins. Coach Mike Sullivan had ended his Tuesday night expecting to speak with Rutherford on Wednesday morning, a conversation he expected would be focused on options to replace defensemen Brian Dumoulin and, possibly, John Marino, each injured in the Penguins’ 3-2 overtime loss on Tuesday night.
Sullivan and Rutherford did talk Wednesday morning, team sources said, and the Penguins’ defensive depth did come up. But everything was an afterthought to Rutherford’s resignation.
Most players were not aware of the news until after the Penguins’ noon practice in Boston. Crosby and Letang, among the first to learn, took it upon themselves to speak with other teammates at the Penguins’ hotel, multiple team sources said.
A person with the Penguins in Boston described Wednesday as “weird.”
“But not as weird as you’d think considering our GM quit on us.”

I have to say... obviously I have no clue what this hypothetical trade might be, but I can understand ownership's reservations. Now is not the time to speak ill of Rutherford, but his moves in recent years haven't exactly inspired confidence. If I were his boss I'd be wary of allowing him to make such a big change not only to the team's roster, but also to their culture. I'm willing to bet that ownership saw the proposed deal and thought, "We can't let this go on any longer." 

In any case assistant GM Patrik Allvin has been promoted to interim-GM status, but it's expected that the team will hire a full-time GM to replace Rutherford. How does Philadelphia Flyers legend Ron Hextall sound as the Penguins' next GM? Weird, right? Well according to Sportsnet NHL insider Elliotte Friedman, Hextall is being looked at, along with a host of other prospective and former NHL GM's.

Check out Friedman's list from last night's Sportsnet broadcast:

I gotta say... I'm an agent of chaos... and for that reason I would love nothing more than to see Peter Chiarelli as Sidney Crosby's next GM.