Jim Rutherford’s 20 years as general manager with the Canes

April 28, 2014 

Jim Rutherford served as general manager of the Hartford Whalers and Carolina Hurricanes for 20 years, facing some highs and lows in the job. Here’s a look at some of them:

1994

Rutherford named president and general manager when KTR Partnership – the ownership group of Peter Karmanos Jr., the late Thomas Thewes and Rutherford – buys the NHL’s Hartford Whalers on June 28.

1995

In November, Rutherford makes bold move and names Paul Maurice coach of the Whalers. Maurice is 28, the youngest head coach in the league.

1997

• At the site of the planned arena near Carter-Finley Stadium, it’s announced in May the Whalers franchise will relocate to Raleigh.

• The Canes’ first regular-season game in North Carolina is played Oct. 3 in Greensboro against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Attendance for the “home” opener was 18,661, but the Canes would play before a lot of empty seats in the two seasons in the Greensboro Coliseum.

1998

In July, Rutherford signs free-agent center Ron Francis in a move that brings more legitimacy to the Canes’ efforts to establish hockey in the Raleigh market and North Carolina.

1999

The Hurricanes play first game at the newly opened Entertainment and Sports Arena on Oct. 29 against the New Jersey Devils, losing 4-2.

2000

In a January move that helped lay the groundwork for a Stanley Cup title, Rutherford obtains center Rod Brind’Amour in a trade with Philadelphia.

2002

• The Canes, coached by Maurice, reach the Stanley Cup final for the first time in franchise history by topping the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference finals.

•  The Canes host their first Stanley Cup final game against the Detroit Red Wings and it’s memorable – a three-overtime thriller the Wings win 3-2.

2003

In December, Rutherford fires Maurice as coach and replaces him with Peter Laviolette.

2004

Hurricanes host the NHL Entry Draft in June, drawing 15,672 fans and giving Raleigh international exposure.

2006

• In June, Hurricanes win franchise’s first Stanley Cup in a seven-game series with Edmonton Oilers, taking a 3-1 victory in Game 7.

•  Rutherford named “Executive of the Year” by NHL general managers and the Triangle’s “Businessperson of the Year” by Triangle Business Journal.

2008

• In September, Rutherford announces center Eric Staal has been signed to a seven-year extension and will be the franchise’s cornerstone player.

•  In early December, Rutherford fires Laviolette and brings back Maurice for a second run as coach. Rutherford entices Francis to become associate head coach.

2009

Canes win seven-game playoff series against New Jersey and Boston to reach 2009 Eastern Conference finals but then are swept by Pittsburgh Penguins.

2011

• In January, the Hurricanes host the NHL All-Star Weekend, highlighted by the All-Star Game, and it’s judged a major success by the league and those attending.

•  Hurricanes, needing a victory on home ice in the final game of the regular season to reach the playoffs, show little life and lose to the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-2. Rutherford, badly disappointed, delays his end-of-season press conference for more than a month as he ponders personnel changes but elects to retain Maurice as coach.

•  Rutherford becomes part of new investors with ownership stakes in the team in November.

•  In December, five months after a splashy signing of veteran defenseman Tomas Kaberle to a three-year, $12.75 million free-agent contract, Rutherford trades him to Montreal. Disappointed in Kaberle’s play, Rutherford admits, “I should have known better.”

•  In late November, Rutherford fires Maurice and hires Kirk Muller, an ex-NHL star with no NHL head coaching experience.

2012

In a June trade that upstaged the NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh, the Canes obtain Penguins center Jordan Staal in a deal Rutherford orchestrated and completed the first day of the draft. Days later, Rutherford signs Staal to a 10-year, $60 million extension.

2013

A spat over scheduling dates at PNC Arena with N.C. State goes public; it’s resolved when Rutherford meets with NCSU Chancellor Randy Woodson.

2014

• In a season in which the Canes raised ticket prices, they miss the playoffs for a fifth straight year. Rutherford says team was among the most frustrating to watch.

•  Rutherford steps down as general manager and is replaced by Ron Francis.

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