One of the more interesting nuggets of the Penguins’ draft pick came in the moments following the selection of forward Samuel Poulin. General manager Jim Rutherford was interviewed for NBCSN on live television by Kathryn Tappen.
Tappen asked a very direct and pertinent question given all the trade whispers and reports and frankly media-driven “reports” on the Pens.
When asked about Kessel trade rumors, Rutherford said, “that’s exactly what it is, it’s rumors.”
“My comments were at the end of the season there was a lot of speculation that everyone is available. I haven’t been shopping those guys around. I’m open to conversations, and quite frankly I haven’t had too many.”
Darren Dreger followed that up by noting is was unusual the Pens weren’t being active in making trades.
The focus shifted to the guru of all NHL talk Bob McKenzie and he was asked if Kessel would be with the Pens at the start of the season. He mentioned that while Rutherford is taking the stance right now and he didn’t know if the Pens would be able to revive the trade with Minnesota to trade Kessel for Jason Zucker and that the Wild would have to agree to it, which he hasn’t, and didn’t.
On a larger scale, Rutherford’s direct comments about not “shopping” his stars is refreshing to hear. And should throw a lot of caution that the Pens won’t be trading Kessel or Kris Letang or even Evgeni Malkin just for it. And all of those guys have varying levels of no trade clauses that make it an unlikely outcome anyways.
It’s a bit generous to say Rutherford hasn’t considered or thought of anything, when many credible reports (that Rutherford himself has since verified) have placed an agreement of a Kessel trade to Minnesota would have happened, if not for Phil exercising his right to block the trade. Rutherford has also made many comments in the offseason, some of them conflicting, about what he wanted to do — including notably not committing to players like Letang or Malkin remaining as cornerstone, surefire bets to return in 2019. That in itself is always noteworthy and eyebrow raising and has no doubt spurned a lot of activity and “reports” and “whispers” about what might happen.
But rogue comments aside, it’s clear (and fortunate) that the Pens aren’t itching to move out a guy like Letang. That is a realistic outcome. It doesn’t make sense with the franchise’s goals or current life-cycle to deal away a Norris contending defenseman and expect to get good value.