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Penguins Performing a Rebuild-on-the Fly

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Jim Rutherford was looked at as a GM who could re-tool the Penguins roster back into a championship caliber team, but he did much more than that. He essentially took the roster, and did a near complete rebuild, all in a year's time, and all on the fly.

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When the Penguins hired Jim Rutherford last summer to be their General Manager, terms like 're-tooling' were used in place of a 'rebuild' that many organizations and franchises go through. Perhaps the term 'rebuild' was avoided by fans of the team, because it comes across as weak and means that the team you like isn't in a good place. That's fair. I defend the Penguins ridiculously all the time, even when I am dead wrong.

But what actually took place was much more than a re-tooling, it was definitely a rebuild, and one that took place on the fly.

Jim Rutherford took the reins to the franchise, and had a lot of decisions to make. Some turned out better than others.

Two entry drafts, two free agency periods, and one NHL season. More than just 'one year' but that's a lot of turnover in one calendar year.

Letting free agents like Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen, Paul Martin, and Jussi Jokinen walk can be difficult, but those decisions are the kind that can hamper you long term. Allowing terrible players like Tanner Glass, Joe Vitale, and Taylor Pyatt to move on and play hockey elsewhere and no-brainers.

Rutherford has shown that he is willing to be patient when dealing with trading partners. In his traded with Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver, for David Perron, Phil Kessel, and Nick Bonino, respectively, he showed he's willing to wait out for the player he knows he wants.

It's also interesting to me how Rutherford manages traded assets, and how often he uses those assets in later trades. Nick Spaling, a throw-in to the Patric Hornqvist trade for James Neal, later becomes part of the Phil Kessel trade. Rutherford trades a prospect and a pick to Arizona for Rob Klinkhammer, who then gets packaged with another pick to make the David Perron trade happen. It's all very fascinating to me.

Time will tell if young players like Oskar Sundqvist, Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary, and Scott Wilson can make Pittsburgh a long-term stop in their career, but nonetheless, it's exciting to look at potential futures.

The only constants who remain from when Rutherford took the job: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis, Beau Bennett, Kris Letang, Rob Scuderi, Olli Maatta, Marc-Andre Fleury. More than 50% roster turnover in a year's time.

That's definitely a rebuild-on-the-fly, at least in my mind.