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Penguins

Columbus coach John Tortorella rips Penguins' Jack Johnson, Jim Rutherford

Jonathan Bombulie
| Sunday, July 1, 2018, 10:00 p.m.
Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella on the bench during a game against the Penguins Tuesday, April 4, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella on the bench during a game against the Penguins Tuesday, April 4, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.

Speaking at an introductory press conference after the Penguins signed the defenseman to a five-year contract Sunday, Jack Johnson and general manager Jim Rutherford apparently touched a nerve with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Johnson said he was happy to be joining the Penguins because he wanted "to be a part of a winning culture."

Rutherford said he didn't think Johnson had a bad season last year, noting that he knew why the Blue Jackets scratched the defenseman down the stretch and it "wasn't because of how he was playing."

Columbus coach John Tortorella took great offense, going on a long, profanity-laced tirade in an interview with The Athletic .

He called Johnson's words "a backhand slap" to the Blue Jackets and invited Rutherford to shut up, with an expletive thrown into the middle of the request for good measure.

"For (Johnson) to put it the way he put it today is (expletive)," Tortorella told the website. "And to have a general manager question our decision making from three hours away, he must be (an expletive) magician."

Rutherford politely declined to respond to Tortorella's comments Sunday night.

Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen also was angry with Rutherford, though less profane.

"I have no idea what he's talking about," Kekalainen told the Columbus Dispatch. "If he thinks it was something else, he knows something that me and Tortorella doesn't. … Totally coach's decision and nothing else. … What do you think? We didn't want to win in the playoffs?"

Rutherford didn't go into detail about why he believed Johnson was scratched.

The 31-year-old defenseman did request a trade in the middle of last season, wishing to go to a situation where he could maximize his earning potential headed into free agency. Johnson filed for bankruptcy in 2014 after a massive dispute with his parents over the way they handled his money early in his career.

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

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