Rutherford: Penguins may do more ‘tinkering’ after Zucker trade

Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford joins HC to discuss how the Jason Zucker trade came about with his old buddy, Wild GM Bill Guerin, and says they may still tinker, but he doesn’t see anything else major happening for them.

Jim Rutherford is consistently among the busiest and most aggressive executives in the NHL and that has held true this season.

The Pittsburgh Penguins general manager acquired four-time 20-goal scorer Jason Zucker from the Minnesota Wild earlier this week in exchange for Alex Galchenyuk, prospect Calen Addison and a conditional 2020 first-round pick.

Rutherford said during a Thursday appearance on Hockey Central at Noon that he may not be done making additions to a Penguins team that currently finds itself in second place in the Metropolitan Division.

“Well, I like our team. I’d prefer to be 100 per cent healthy as all teams would, so we’ll wait until probably about 48 hours prior to the (Feb. 24) deadline to make decisions going forward,” Rutherford explained.

Rutherford said he will continue to monitor the progress of injured players Jake Guentzel, Nick Bjugstad, Brian Dumoulin and John Marino. The health status of those players could impact his trade deadline plans.

“If we go with the group we have, I’m fine with that. I like this group,” he added. “There may be a little bit of tinkering at the end but I don’t see anything big.”

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Zucker made his Penguins debut – donning a non-Wild sweater for the first time in his NHL career – on Tuesday when he registered five shots on goal in 15:26 of ice-time.

The 28-year-old American has three years remaining on his contract that carries an annual salary cap hit of $5.5 million.

“We’ve always wanted Zucker,” Rutherford said. “We wanted him in the summertime.”

Rutherford explained the Penguins and Wild had been working on a trade involving Zucker in the off-season, however talks were delayed when Minnesota fired Paul Fenton and hired Bill Guerin.

Guerin had served as Rutherford’s assistant GM in Pittsburgh since 2014 prior to joining the Wild.

“I think he was there a couple days and I called him and reminded him what he already knew … and I said, ‘If you get to that point when you know you’re going to make your changes let me know,’” Rutherford explained. “Once he got to that point I’d say this deal took two or three weeks [to complete].”

The Penguins are in the midst of a four-game homestand and set to host the Montreal Canadiens on Friday with Zucker expected to skate on a line with Sidney Crosby and Dominik Simon.

Pittsburgh hasn’t advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs since winning the Stanley Cup in 2017 yet Rutherford says, “We feel our window’s still here for this year and a couple more.”

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