Changes Coming to Penguins

Pens GM says it will be a different roster next season

Jeff Hathhorn
May 09, 2018 - 1:03 pm
Jim Rutherford

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

CRANBERRY TWP, PA – (93.7 the Fan)  As the players had their exit interviews and final physicals, Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford promised a different look team starting in September.

“It’s obvious that I’m going to keep an open mind into making some changes,” Rutherford said.  “I can’t give you a definite answer on who that is going to be, and the positions.” 

Some will be obvious, there are a number of players who become restricted free agents—forwards Riley Sheahan, Bryan Rust, Dominik Simon, Tom Kuhnhackl along with defenseman Jamie Oleksiak.  Forwards Carter Rowney and Josh Jooris are the only unrestricted free agents. 

So we can assume all won’t be back, but it seemed like Rutherford could change more than just these names.  The veteran G-M said he doesn’t have cap issues right now and says they may not be drastic changes.

“We’re a good team and we will be a good team going forward,” Rutherford added.  “We will have the chance to win again.  We also have the pieces in place that are players that other teams are going to want that we are going to be able to make those changes.”

Injuries

Rutherford confirmed Phil Kessel dealt with injuries all year, says it caught up with him in the post-season.  And forward Derick Brassard played with an injury that is very difficult to play with (undisclosed), but he believes he can make a big impact next year.

We Will See Sprong

Rutherford did not leave doubt about Daniel Sprong’s role next year.  The 21-year-old Sprong led the Pens AHL team in Wilkes-Barre Scranton with 32 goals and 65 points in 65 games.  Sprong scored a pair of goals in eight games with the Pens.

“He should be a regular on our team,” Rutherford said.  “We were very careful with him this year.  We develop players in different ways certainly he had the ability at certain times to play an offensive role on our team, but he needed to work on his all-around game.  He did that.”

Rutherford added that Sprong is “a very talented player who will score a lot of goals in this league.”

Hunwick Issue

“I think coming into a team that had the success that we had it’s difficult for a player,” Rutherford said of defenseman Matt Hunwick.  “They play outside of their game, try to do too much.  There are times where he played fine, but I think he put too much pressure on himself.” 

Hunwick signed a three year contract last off-season for 6.75 million.

“He’s still a capable guy, still a guy who can play here,” Rutherford added.  “He got himself in a position where there were six guys ahead of him and nobody got hurt and he didn’t get back in.”

The answer from the 12 year vet about his future drew as much reaction as anything he said on Wednesday.  So, will you be back next year?

“I think the best answer is I may be around longer than you guys.”