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Breaking Rutherford: Pens first major move could come sooner rather than later

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A look into Jim Rutherford's trade record reveals that a move may be right around the corner.

Bruce Bennett

While the NHL season is still less than a month old, murmurings have already begun about what possible trades and other moves the Penguins could make this year to plug some noticeable holes in their lineup and sure up their roster as they make yet another run at the Stanley Cup.

While upcoming UFA Paul Martin seems to be everyone's favorite candidate to get shipped, there hasn't been much (or at least, I haven't seen it) speculation and discussion about a possible landing spot for the 34-year old blue liner and what kind of possible return he could bring.

But regardless of who does get moved, it's likely that Pens fans won't have to wait until the March trade-deadline to find out.  A closer breakdown of GM Jim Rutherford's tendencies reveals a spike in activity starting around Christmas.

Let's look at the every trade GMJR has made in-season over the last few years while at the helm of Carolina, courtesy of nhltradetracker.com.

  • March 5th, 2014 - Traded Tuomo Ruutu to New Jersey for Andrei Loktionov and a 2017 conditional 3rd-round pick.
  • January 1st, 2013 - Traded Tim Gleason to Toronto for John Michael-Liles and Dennis Robertson.
  • December 20th, 2013 - Traded Kevin Westgarth to Calgary for Greg Nemisz.
  • April 3rd, 2013 - Traded Jussi Jokinen to Pittsburgh for a 2013 conditional pick.
  • April 2nd, 2013 - Traded Adam Hall and a 7th-round pick to Tampa Bay for Marc-Andre Bergeron.
  • January 13th, 2013 - Traded Anthony Stewart, a fourth, and a seventh round pick to Los Angles for Kevin Westgarth.
  • January 18th, 2012- Traded Mattias Lindstrom and Jonathan Matsumoto to Florida for Evgeny Dadanov and AJ Jenks.
  • December 9th, 2011 - Traded Tomas Kaberle to Montreal for Jaroslav Spacek.
  • February 28th, 2011 - Trade Sergei Samsonov to Florida for Bryan Allen.
  • February 24th, 2011 - Traded Ryan Carter and a 5th round pick to Florida for Cory Stillman.
  • February 18th, 2011 - Traded Derek Joslin to San Jose for future considerations.
  • February 18th, 2011 - Traded Ian White top San Jose for a 2012 2nd-round pick.
  • November 23rd, 2010 - Traded Stephane Chaput and Matt Kennedy to Anaheim for Ryan Carter.
  • November 17th, 2010 - Traded Anton Babchuck and Tom Kostopoulos to Calgary Brett Sutter and Ian White.

*Bold indicates a trade-deadline move.

At first, things look all over the place, but look closely and you'll notice a few trends developing.

For one, the Hurricanes under Rutherford seem to heat up trade interest once it starts to get cold outside.  Of the 14 in-season moves GMJR made since the beginning of the 2009-2010 season, 11 of them happened between mid-late November and February of that year.

It's a trend that holds true going all the way back to Carolina's Stanley Cup in 2006 when they made five trades in December and January to re-shape their roster before going all-on and acquiring Mark Recchi at the deadline.

If that MO has stuck with Rutherford since moving to Pittsburgh, it's likely we could see at least one trade before Christmas and possibly another between January and the trade deadline in March. Another thing that stuck out to me is Rutherford's willingness to trade within his own conference as well as his own division, something that his predecessor did only with relatively minor players (looking at you, Eric Tangradi).

Of course, all of this comes with the caveat of context.  After all, Rutherford was not dealing form a position of strength very often in Carolina like Shero was in Pittsburgh, and didn't have to worry about trading a player to a team that they would see later on come playoff time.

However, now that GMJR is here I'd have to think his tendencies remain.  I won't go as far as to predict it, but it wouldn't shock me either. Rutherford is 65 and has been an NHL GM for over two decades.  To think that he comes to Pittsburgh and abandons 20 years worth of habits seems kind of foolhardy to me.

Rutherford's trade habits aren't exactly breaking news, but nevertheless, it wouldn't shock me to see the first significant move of the season happen sooner rather than later.