Penguins GM discusses why Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang haven’t been labeled untouchable | TribLIVE.com
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Jonathan Bombulie

Looking to change up his roster after a disappointing playoff exit, Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford has yet to include Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang on a list of untouchable players in any public comments he’s made this offseason.

He still hasn’t, but in a radio interview on 93.7 FM on Monday morning, he said Malkin, Letang and Patric Hornqvist aren’t players he’s “pushing to trade.”

“It’s the same as anything,” Rutherford said. “There’s been great players traded in this league. You know, somebody comes along with a package that makes sense for the Penguins, we have to look at it. These are not, the guys that you mentioned, are not guys I’m pushing to trade or feel that I have to trade from the Penguins. They’ve been great players. They still are. And they’re the kind of guys you win championships with.

“I didn’t say that I was going to actively push to trade the guys that you just mentioned, but I didn’t say that I wouldn’t. The best example – people hear this over and over – is (Wayne) Gretzky was traded, one of the greatest players of all time. Sometimes, there’s certain packages come along that you have to look at. That’s why I kept that door open.”

Rutherford also said that when it came to making a trade to alleviate a salary cap crunch and a glut of left-handed defensemen, it came down to a choice between Olli Maatta and Jack Johnson.

He sent Maatta to the Chicago Blackhawks for forward Dominik Kahun and a fifth-round draft pick on Saturday.

“It was going to be either Johnson or Maatta to open up the necessary cap space and open up the logjam at defense. As it turned out, it ended up being Olli, who had the bigger cap hit,” Rutherford said.

Rutherford added that Johnson was not involved in a proposed deal that would have sent Phil Kessel to Minnesota last month. Kessel used his no-trade clause to veto the deal.

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