PITTSBURGH — Jim Rutherford arrived in Pittsburgh in the summer of 2014 tasked with jump-starting a star-laden but stalled franchise to life.

By the end of his third season as general manager, the Penguins became the first team in a generation to win consecutive Stanley Cup titles.

Those banners will serve as long-lasting reminders of the success of Rutheford’s tenure, one that came to an abrupt end on Wednesday when the 71-year-old Hall of Famer resigned just two weeks into the abbreviated 2021 season.

Rutherford, whose contract was set to expire in June, cited “personal reasons” behind the decision. He told team president and CEO David Morehouse on Tuesday night and confirmed it again when the two spoke Wednesday morning.

“It just got to a point that I decided my time was up here,” Rutherford told The Associated Press.

Rutherford, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2019, stressed the move had nothing to do with his health.

“I know everybody wants to refer to my age all the time,” Rutherford said with a laugh. “The guy who has the toughest job in the world, who just got elected (78-year-old U.S. President Joe Biden) is way older than me … I feel good, I feel good and healthy and if there’s an opportunity that presents itself (I will listen).”

Rutherford declined to get into specifics about whether his long-term status had anything to do with his exit.

“I really don’t want to get into that,” Rutherford said. “They didn’t push it aside. As an organization, they’ve treated me first class.”

The club promoted assistant general manager Patrik Allvin to serve as general manager on an interim basis while the club searches for a permanent replacement.

Morehouse dismissed the notion that internal strife within upper management led to Rutherford’s departure and demurred when asked if it came as a surprise.

“Shocking, I’m not sure `shocking’ is the right word,” Morehouse said. “I think he’s accomplished a lot here and I think he still has things he wants to do.”

Rutherford did plenty in Pittsburgh after replacing Ray Shero in June 2014. Though Shero had guided the Penguins to a Stanley Cup in 2009, Pittsburgh’s momentum had subsided even with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in their prime.

The nadir came following a blown 3-1 lead to the New York Rangers in the second round of the 2014 playoffs. Shero was fired and replaced by Rutherford, a journeyman goaltender during a 13-year NHL career before a long run as general manager with the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes, which won the franchise’s only Stanley Cup in 2006 with a roster put together by Rutherford.

Following an uneven first season in which the Penguins made little headway under Coach Mike Johnston – Rutherford’s hire to replace Dan Bylsma – Rutherford’s rebuild picked up steam in December 2015 when he replaced Johnston with Mike Sullivan and created a roster around Crosby and Malkin built on speed.

Trades for defensemen Trevor Daley and Justin Schultz and forwards Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino and the eventual arrival of prospects such as forwards Bryan Rust and Jake Guentzel made the Penguins deep and dangerous. Sullivan’s blunt leadership galvanized the group and Pittsburgh raced its way to Stanley Cup victories over San Jose in 2016 and Nashville in 2017.

BLUES: The St. Louis Blues are the latest NHL team to allow a limited number of fans into home games.

The team says up to 1,400 people will be allowed at its next set of home games Feb. 2-7.

As of now, the Blues would be the fifth NHL team to allow fans into their arena, joining the Florida Panthers, Arizona Coyotes, Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators. Nashville allowed only a couple of hundred fans for its game Tuesday night, the first with them in the building.

Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said before the season began that Pittsburgh and Columbus were among the other teams making plans. The defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning originally planned to host 3,800 fans a game but postponed that because of a spike in COVID-19 cases in the area.

TRADE: The Ottawa Senators acquired forward Jack Kopacka and a 2022 seventh-round draft pick from the San Jose Sharks for defenseman Christian Jaros.

HURRICANES: The Carolina Hurricanes played just three games this season before having to shut down workouts and postpone four games due to COVID-19 concerns.

They returned to practice this week and are set to play Thursday against Tampa Bay in what amounts to a second try at starting the season, although Coach Rod Brind’Amour is missing key names and concerned about conditioning issues following the unexpected layoff.

“You’ve got to deal with it,” Brind’Amour said. “That’s just it. The excuse jar is full. There’s no more, nobody cares, we’ve got to figure it out. And that’s the approach we have to have.”

Carolina hasn’t played since winning at Nashville on Jan. 18, with coronavirus concerns nixing the next night’s rematch in the league’s first in-season postponement following the preseason postponement of the the Dallas Stars’ start to the season. The NHL later postponed Carolina’s two home games against Florida and Tuesday’s home game against Tampa Bay.

In all, six Hurricanes players have appeared on the NHL’s daily COVID-19 unavailability list.

Four players who went on the COVID-19 list the day of the Nashville postponement were still on it Wednesday afternoon: wingers Teuvo Teravainen, Jordan Martinook and Warren Foegele, and defenseman Jaccob Slavin. Winger Jesper Fast, an offseason signee from the New York Rangers, has been on the list since Saturday.

WEDNESDAY’S GAMES

PREDATORS 2, BLACKHAWKS 1: Matt Duchene scored the only goal of the shootout to give Nashville a win at home.

Nick Cousins had the regulation goal for Nashville.

Ryan Carpenter had the Chicago goal. The Blackhawks have dropped two in a row, but have earned at least one standings point in their last five games.

CANUCKS 5, SENATORS 1: J.T. Miller had two goals and an assist, Tyler Motte scored twice and Vancouver sent visiting Ottawa to its sixth straight loss.

Elias Pettersson also had a goal and an assist, and Thatcher Demko made 42 saves for Vancouver.

Ottawa’s lone goal came from Josh Norris on a power play in the first period. Marcus Hogberg stopped 30 shots. The Senators haven’t won since beating Toronto 5-3 in its season opener on Jan. 15.


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