Mar 30, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) celebrates with the Pens bench after scoring a goal against the Chicago Blackhawks during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pittsburgh Penguins won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Jim Rutherford Has Set Penguins Up For Next Summer's Market

A month-plus into his new gig as general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Jim Rutherford has made a plethora of moves.

Head coach Dan Bylsma was relieved of his duties, high-powered sniper James Neal was dealt to Nashville, and top defenseman Christian Ehrhoff was signed, to name a few.

Rutherford’s reconstruction from the front office, to the coaching staff, to the players has set precedence within the organization. He’s taken most of what Ray Shero did, and flipped his sails into a different direction for the team.

Fans have mixed feelings about what Rutherford’s accomplished thus far, but while the naysayers aren’t too fond of his blueprint, it’s unfair to judge a man who hasn’t even entertained a full season under his belt with the team yet.

Regardless of how you may feel, Rutherford, so far, is facilitating a plan to correct the bloated payroll issues Shero has left him with. And by next summer, Rutherford will have more flexibility to pursue bigger ticket items.

Look at the deals he’s distributed:

Notice the similarity? They’re all one-year deals. So, that money is coming off the books by next summer. Then, you look at the players set to be unrestricted free agents – Craig Adams ($700,000), Marc-Andre Fleury ($5 million), and Paul Martin ($5 million), per Cap Geek – that’s $18.6 million in total being dropped off the payroll.

Combine that with the Penguins’ current cap space, they’ll have a little over $25 million to work with by 2015; nearly $10 million more than this summer.

Take a look at some of the players they could get in ’15 – per Cap Geek:

Some may evaluate the Neal deal as a total ripoff. Yes, at first, when I saw the details, I too thought they could’ve gotten a lot more for Neal – or at least a draft pick. However, if Patric Hornqvist is able to stay healthy, he’ll be just as effective as Neal was, and I’m confident in believing that. Then, Rutherford adds Nick Spaling, who will aid the secondary.

Two for the price of Neal? I’ll take that.

So, again, in time, Rutherford will show why he’s steering the Penguins on the right path. A lot has happened to the franchise in a short period of time, but Rutherford’s setting Pittsburgh up with better financial flexibility to ensure a balanced, gritty lineup.

Rutherford’s far from done.

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