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Penguins GM Rutherford in no hurry to craft succession plan

| Friday, May 12, 2017, 3:06 p.m.
The Penguins' Jim Rutherford holds the General Manager of the Year trophy at the NHL Awards show Wednesday, June 22, 2016, in Las Vegas.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford speaks during a news conference Tuesday, April 28, 2015, at Consol Energy Center.

Even with associate general manager Jason Botterill leaving to take the helm of the Buffalo Sabres this week, a succession plan isn't in the front of Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford's mind these days.

That's because he's in no hurry to go anywhere.

"I don't really think about it, so I guess the fact that I'm not thinking about it, I guess it'll be for a while longer, whatever that means," said Rutherford, 68, who signed a three-year contract extension last July. "When I start to think about something, it doesn't usually happen that quick. I usually think about it for quite some time."

Rutherford said Botterill's defection to the Sabres, which was officially announced Thursday, did not sneak up on him.

"I wasn't surprised," Rutherford said. "He's a guy that's was at the top of every list over the last couple of years when there were job openings. Shortly after they made the change in Buffalo, I got the call from the president. He asked for permission. I met with Jason at that time, and we talked about a lot of different things. Then he went for the interview, and he went for the second interview.

"Once I got the call that he was going for a second interview, I knew that he was going to get the job."

Rutherford said his plan to replace Botterill, whose top responsibilities included salary cap management and prospect development, will begin with a conversation with assistant general manager Bill Guerin, vice president of hockey operations Jason Karmanos and player development coach Mark Recchi.

Rutherford also said he sees a bigger role for Sergei Gonchar in the future. Gonchar now works with the Penguins in a limited capacity as a defensive development coach.

After hashing out a new set of responsibilities with all involved, Rutherford said he might or might not add to the front office.

"If all of this doesn't work, I have my own little list of people that can also come in and do a good job," Rutherford said.

In keeping with the no-hurry theme of the day, Rutherford added that he has yet to begin contracts talks with any players who will be free agents after this season.

That includes Justin Schultz, Brian Dumoulin and Conor Sheary, who will be restricted free agents, and Nick Bonino, Matt Cullen, Chris Kunitz and Trevor Daley, who will be unrestricted.

"No communication at all. When we're playing, I feel it's important that the player plays, and there's an appropriate time to negotiate contracts," Rutherford said. "So I think the player knows where he stands, the team knows where he stands. When Carolina won the Cup in '06, I think I had 13 free agents to sign in 10 days, and for me, it was a lot easier that way. Because you cut out all of the baloney in between. You go around and around about things that don't even matter in negotiations. When you get down to the end, you get right to the point and get it done."

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

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