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Pens GM stands pat at deadline, counts on earlier moves to pay off

| Monday, Feb. 29, 2016, 7:57 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford speaks to the media during a news conference Tuesday, April 28, 2015, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Carl Hagelin moves the puck against the Canucks on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, at Consol Energy Center.

General manager Jim Rutherford doesn't think his team is perfect.

If there had been a feasible trade proposal on the table for an impact player before Monday's 3 p.m. NHL trade deadline, he probably would have pulled the trigger.

But teams were asking high prices for rental players. And the Penguins were tight enough to the salary cap that Rutherford would have needed to be creative to fit in a player making much more than the league minimum. And he wasn't willing to move a top prospect or one of the two second-round picks the team holds in June's draft.

So, aside from a pair of minor moves, he stood pat.

“There wasn't a player that we could have met the demands (on) that could have come in and made an impact on this team,” Rutherford said.

As a result of the deadline-day inactivity, Rutherford is counting on two developments from earlier in the season to make a difference.

First, he will expect the trades consummated earlier for defensemen Justin Schultz and Trevor Daley and winger Carl Hagelin upgraded his team's speed enough to move the needle.

“I think if you go back to the first couple of months, we did not play very well,” Rutherford said. “We're a team that is a lot faster now. We have more balance. We're a team that's a lot better at this point.”

Second, he will have to hope young players like Scott Wilson, Bryan Rust, Derrick Pouliot and Matt Murray are ready not just to fill in admirably but legitimately make a difference.

“It's time for this team to get some of the younger players in the lineup,” Rutherford said. “These guys have done pretty well. They've brought good energy to the team. They've held their own. They've scored some nice goals.

“I think it's time to get that mixture.”

Rutherford was far from the only NHL GM who didn't make a major splash Monday. There were 19 trades involving 37 players and 13 draft picks on deadline day, but the biggest names moved were winger Mikkel Boedker (Arizona to Colorado) and defenseman Kris Russell (Calgary to Dallas).

“There were more (trades) leading up to today's deadline, which took away from the number of deals today,” Rutherford said. “But with as many teams that are still in the race and the asking prices and the players that were available, it meant there weren't many.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

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