April 19, 2019 | 10:10am ET
ROSTER CHANGES COMING IN PITTSBURGH
Phil Kessel, right wing
The Pittsburgh Penguins are still digesting the fact that they were swept by the New York Islanders in the first-round of the playoffs for the first time since the 2012-13 Eastern Conference Finals, but GM Jim Rutherford promised changes are coming.
In speaking to the media on Thursday, Rutherford admitted moves are to be made, he just isn’t exactly clear on which ones.
“I don’t know yet because we’re still a little bit emotional with the disappointment of how this ended,” Rutherford told reporters, as quoted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I think the best thing for me to do is take a little bit of time to think through this.”
As the weeks inch closer to the NHL Draft in late-June, where teams often look to complete trades, one area Rutherford might not focus too much on is defence.
Rutherford believes in his defensive corps, as currently constructed.
“I think our defense is probably the best now that it’s been since I’ve been here as a group,” Rutherford said. “You always like mobile defensemen. You like guys who can move the puck. We have at least one guy on each pairing who can move the puck. Now we have guys who can have some pushback.”
Rutherford criticized parts of his roster, though, wondering aloud if some players on the team are too comfortable with the status quo.
“The inconsistency. . . we still got 100 points, but it wasn’t a comfortable 100 points,” Rutherford said. “Our team played as a team in March. We were tracking toward being a good playoff team, then we ran up against a team that was more determined and played the game the right way. We played higher-risk.
“It was there. We saw it in March. It could certainly be there in the future.”
Rutherford revealed there are “some big decisions will have to be made,” leading to speculation that he could explore the trade market on such guys as Phil Kessel and Patric Hornqvist, but any such move isn’t expected until the draft, at the earliest.