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Penguins

GM Jim Rutherford: Penguins 'all in' at trade deadline

Jonathan Bombulie
| Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, 6:40 p.m.
Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford speaks during media day for the 2017 Stanley Cup Final Sunday, May 28, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford speaks during media day for the 2017 Stanley Cup Final Sunday, May 28, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena.

As the Feb. 26 trade deadline approaches, Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford's ambitions are high.

The hurdles standing in his path are too.

Rutherford wants to add to his roster to give his already vastly improved team an even better chance at winning a third straight Stanley Cup championship.

He's not restricting himself to easily obtained targets, either. Those high-profile names that will be discussed ad nauseam in the North American media as the deadline approaches? Rutherford will have conversations with opposing GMs about them. Probably already has.

“We're all in,” Rutherford said Friday afternoon. “Whatever we can do to give us a better chance to win this year, we're going to do it.”

That means Rutherford will work long hours over the next 10 days. He will pull out every trick in the general manager's handbook.

He's still not sure if that will be enough to make an impact move happen.

“We're going to try to get creative and do what we can,” Rutherford said. “We may or may not be able to figure out how to do it, but we're certainly going to give it our best shot.”

The biggest obstacle in Rutherford's way is the salary cap.

According to capfriendly.com, the Penguins are projected to have a little less than $1 million in available space on deadline day. They could finesse their way into a little more room by manipulating the roster as the deadline approaches, but a sobering fact remains: If the Penguins want to land a big fish — Ottawa center Derick Brassard or Buffalo winger Evander Kane, for example, two players rumored to be available who make around $5 million apiece — they would have to make some pretty significant subtractions from their roster.

Maybe they could move out a defenseman, with Matt Hunwick sitting outside the team's top six. Maybe they could part with a winger, their deepest position. Maybe they'd need to do both.

It probably wouldn't be easy, and given the fact the team is 14-4-1 since Jan. 1, might not even be a great idea to begin with.

“I don't feel that we have to,” Rutherford said. “I'm not surprised at most things that have happened this year, where the first half went the way it did and the determination and the focus in the second half has changed, and we're playing the way we're capable.

“It may end up being a much smaller deal than some teams that might make more of a bigger-impact deal. We'll see. There's a lot of very good pieces in place here to give us a chance to win.”

A lesser obstacle is Rutherford's reluctance to give up top prospects or high draft picks. He will do it, but he will have to hold his nose.

“Depends who's coming our way,” Rutherford said. “I may be more apt to do that if it's a player that's not going to be just with us for this year. I really set out this year to go into this year's draft with a first-round pick, and I hope that's the way it ends up, but if it doesn't, and it gives us a better chance to win again, then I might have to consider it.”

If things break right, Rutherford could overcome the obstacles and make a bold addition to his star-studded roster. If not, he probably still will add depth at center, the team's weakest position.

Either way, he will explore every available avenue in the next 10 days, and either way, he probably will like his team's chances moving forward.

“I'm going to work hard, and I'm going to be in on a lot of things,” Rutherford said. “We'll see what the prices are and do we have the cap space. We'll see if we can make something happen. If we don't and we stay healthy, we can still do very well with this team.”

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

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