PITTSBURGH — Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford, architect behind two recent Stanley Cup runs and 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, unexpectedly resigned on Wednesday. He cited personal reasons for the reason for the decision.
“I know it’s a little unusual to have this happen during a season,” said Rutherford, whose contract was set to expire after this season, in a statement. “But I just felt this was the right time to step away.”
Assistant GM Patrik Allvin has been promoted to interim general manager as the team begins its search immediately for someone to fill Rutherford’s role.
Rutherford, 71, has been the Penguins’ GM since the 2014-15 season, making the playoffs every year and leading the team to back-to-back Stanley Cup titles in 2016 and 2017.
Known for his aggressive nature and win-now approach, Rutherford pulled off some of the biggest moves in Penguins history. The blockbuster deal that brought Phil Kessel to Pittsburgh ranks at the top of the list. He also sent fan favorite James Neal to Nashville for Patric Hornqvist, orchestrated a heist to land Trevor Daley and — more recently — gave up just a sixth-round pick to get defenseman John Marino.
This offseason, Rutherford’s Penguins tenure began to come full circle in some senses. The first player he even acquired in a trade, Hornqvist, was dealt to Florida. The first player he ever drafted, Kasperi Kapanen, came back into the organization via trade.
“It has been a great honor to serve as general manager of the Penguins and to hang two more Stanley Cup banners at PPG Paints Arena,” Rutherford said in a statement. “I have so many people to thank, beginning with the owners, Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux, and team president David Morehouse. There always has been so much support from everyone involved with the Penguins, both on the hockey and business staffs, and, of course, from a special group of players led by Sidney Crosby. The fans here have been tremendous to me and my family.”
Before coming to Pittsburgh, Rutherford spent 20 years as general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers franchise, winning the Stanley Cup in Carolina in 2006. He played 13 seasons in the NHL as a goaltender, including two stints with the Penguins.
“Jim has been an amazing representative of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and he’ll always have a special place in our team’s history, his own legacy,” said Morehouse, the Penguins’ president and CEO, in the same statement. “He’ll always be part of the Penguins. On behalf of our ownership, management, staff, coaches and players, we want to thank him for his many contributions, which go far beyond those two Stanley Cups. Jim is a great friend and teammate. We wish him and his family the best.”
Whoever fills Rutherford's shoes in the long term will step into a challenging circumstance. Not only will they have to follow a Hall of Famer, but the organization is approaching an inflection point.
The Penguins gave Rutherford freedom to take a win-now approach in order to maximize the window for their core players Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang. Picks and prospects were routinely dealt to address immediate needs. Now, the next general manager will inherit a club with one of the shallowest prospect pools in the league. They also don't have a lot of upcoming draft capital after the Penguins traded away their 2021 first-, third-, fourth- and sixth-round picks.
For now, the reins to the organization will be handed off to Allvin, one of the longest-tenured and most-successful members of the Penguins’ organization.
Allvin, 46, originally joined the organization in 2006 as a European scout. He climbed the ranks to become the head European scout in 2012. Most recently, he served as the director of amateur scouting from 2017-2020, where he was responsible for leading the draft war room.
This offseason, Rutherford promoted Allvin to assistant general manager. The club said he'll consult with Lemieux for input and advice.
“It’s an honor to be part of an organization like the Pittsburgh Penguins,” Allvin said when he was promoted in November. “I don’t think I ever take anything for granted. I think I’ve had the same approach as a player — keep working hard and do your job and see where it goes. The success we had here over the last 14 years, as an organization, we’re not done yet.”