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Celebrating Jim Rutherford’s Penguin anniversary

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The Pens’ manager marked six years on the job in Pittsburgh recently

2019 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

Over the weekend, the Penguins took a trip down memory lane with a shutout to recognize Jim Rutherford marking six years on the job in Pittsburgh.

And what a six years it has been. Rutherford remade and reshaped the Pens, leading the way to surround Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin with a lot more talent, which of course led to the first repeat champions in the NHL’s salary cap era in 2016 and 2017.

Personally, Rutherford added the NHL’s “Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award” in 2016. It was a well-deserved honor where he acquired 85% of Phil Kessel’s salary, traded Brandon Sutter for Nick Bonino and a second round pick in the summer. Then in the season, Rutherford added Carl Hagelin (who scored 43 points in 61 combined regular season/playoff games in Pittsburgh that year), swapped out Rob Scuderi for Trevor Daley and added Justin Schultz off the trash heap.

Rutherford would also go onto capstone his career and life in hockey with an induction into the NHL’s Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder in 2019.

Quite the remarkable turnaround for a manager pushed out of a job just weeks earlier and looked headed towards being put out to pasture before getting an offer to interview in Pittsburgh. His hiring was viewed, at best, skeptically in many places — including here at Pensburgh were I wrote in part he was: “a 65-year-old manager who even charitably hasn’t had much success recently, missing the last five postseasons in Carolina.”

And now, Rutherford at 71 seems as spry and energized as ever, remaining one of the NHL’s most active managers at trading as he constantly tweaks and shuffles a roster around to stay under the salary cap and competitive. That’s a bit ironic since Rutherford even mentioned in his early days that he imagined himself being on the job “probably two or three years”, which led to the natural fan suppositions that perhaps the team was using Rutherford as a placeholder to prepare an assistant GM like Jason Botterill or Bill Guerin for the big job.

As it turns out, Rutherford’s outlasted both of the younger managers in the organization, with Botterill and Guerin making moves to external markets (Buffalo and Minnesota, respectively) to find general manager jobs.

Rutherford is under contract with Pittsburgh through the 2021-22 season, which would make two more years. It’s tough to believe it’s already been six, but time flies when you’re having fun and despite a few mis-steps, the results Rutherford has helped bring has mostly been just that.