Canes' Rutherford won't comment on Penguins' GM report

calexander@newsobserver.comJune 3, 2014 

— Jim Rutherford spent 20 years as Carolina Hurricanes general manager, handling all the hockey decisions.

Rutherford gave up that job April 28, stepping down as GM, but is he now ready for another?

An ESPN.com report said Rutherford could be a candidate as Pittsburgh Penguins GM. The Pens fired Ray Shero on May 16 after being bounced from the Stanley Cup playoffs by the New York Rangers.

Rutherford, 65, remains the Hurricanes’ team president and has two years remaining on his contract.

Asked Tuesday about the Pens report and interest in the position, he said, “I’m not going to comment. I’m under contract with the Hurricanes, so that’s the extent of it.”

Pierre McGuire, a hockey analyst with NBC Sports, confirmed Tuesday in a teleconference call that he had interviewed for the Pens’ job and said there were several candidates. McGuire, 52, is a former Pens assistant coach.

In April, when Ron Francis succeeded him as Canes general manager, Rutherford hinted something else might come along to spark his interest and keep him working in the NHL.

“Time will tell,” Rutherford said that day. “Today I feel very good about it. But I think when you get to three months from now or four or six months from now, will that itch be there? Because I competed all my life, as a player, as a manager.

“Will it be there or will it be easier to keep walking in the other direction? I’ll deal with that when the time comes. We’ll see what the next chapter brings.”

For 20 years, Rutherford controlled the day-to-day operations of the team, putting together a Stanley Cup winner in 2006. One of Rutherford’s biggest trades came in June 2012, when he and Shero engineered a deal during the NHL draft in Pittsburgh that sent Pens center Jordan Staal to Carolina for center Brandon Sutter, the Canes’ first-round pick in the 2012 draft and defensive prospect Brian Dumoulin.

Although the Canes have missed the playoffs the past five years, Rutherford said the decision to step down as GM was his own and was made months before the end of the season. He praised Francis’ promotion to GM and executive vice president, saying, “It’s his hockey team now.”

Francis has since fired Kirk Muller as head coach and his search for a new coach continues. Possible candidates include Rangers assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson and Los Angeles Kings assistant John Stevens, a former Philadelphia Flyers head coach.

With the Rangers and Kings about to begin the Stanley Cup final, Francis may have to wait another few weeks for interviews should one or both are candidates.

Rutherford has said he did not feel old or worn down by the job, indicating he was not ready for any sort of semi-retirement. As he put it in April, “As time goes by, people have different thoughts and look at different things and I’ll deal with those things as they come.”

ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun reported other Pens candidates could include Paul Fenton, assistant GM with Nashville and Julien BriseBois, assistant general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip

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