McKenzie on Rutherford: “I’m not sure he’s finished dealing yet”

The Pittsburgh Penguins made one trade this week, and their general manager may not be done.

The team enters Friday evening’s NHL slate with 17 points, the same as the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers, and is looking up at everybody else in the Eastern Conference.

Granted, only 10 points separate last place from first in the East, but it’s still not a position in which the Penguins want to stay much longer.

“He’s not very happy right now,” indicated Bob McKenzie of Jim Rutherford during a Friday afternoon Leafs Lunch discussion on Toronto’s TSN 1050. “The last-place thing doesn’t work very well for him. But you know what - the standings are jammed up pretty good. Last place in the Eastern Conference right now is not a death sentence for a team like the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“But they’ve got to get their act together, there’s no question about that. Crosby being out of the lineup doesn’t help, although historically the Penguins have played some great hockey when Crosby goes out of the lineup because that’s usually Geno time. As soon as Geno sees Crosby is out, he usually elevates his game and they take right off.

“They need better goaltending, that’s one big part of it. And I’m not sure he’s finished dealing yet. Because they brought Jimmy Rutherford in as general manager to be the closer. ‘We’ve got this core - Geno and Sid - and we need you to close the deal here. We haven’t been able to close the deal.’

“And so he goes out and he makes the Kessel trade, and he makes some others, and he does a great job and they win back-to-back Cups.

“If he was the closer then… if you’re brought in to just pitch in the 8th and 9th innings, what he is now with his new three-year deal is you’re brought into pitch to the last two or three batters, never mind the 8th and 9th inning.

“So I think the sense of urgency with the window still open but closing in the future that he’s going to be even more aggressive. So I think he wants to see with a healthy Crosby in the lineup and Tanner Pearson in the lineup and everybody kind of being read the riot act that this is unacceptable, I think he wants to see how they respond to that - give them an opportunity.

“But failing that, I could see him trying to be real aggressive. And by real aggressive, sometimes the next question would be, ‘Does that mean you trade one of Crosby or Malkin.’ No. Not at all. The core is the core.

“But try to get inventive. Try to get creative. And it’s not easy because of their salary cap considerations. But I could see him taking some extraordinary measures to try and find a way to try and spark this thing and get it going, because time’s a wastin here.”

Wednesday saw the Penguins extend Jim Rutherford’s contract for three additional seasons beyond 2018-19, while the GM also dealt Carl Hagelin to the Los Angeles Kings for Tanner Pearson.