The Pittsburgh Penguins were on the receiving end of some shocking news this week when general manager Jim Rutherford, the man largely credited with bringing the Penguins their 2 most recent Stanley Cup Championships, announced that he would be stepping down from his role effective immediately.
The message from the Penguins has been, and continues to be, that the decision from Rutherford was motivated by "personal reasons" but the timing of the move has led the more skeptical members of the National Hockey League's fan base to question whether or not that is actually true. It was no secret that Rutherford was coming into this season without a contract extension, Rutherford's contract is set to expire in June, and it is even less of a secret that a general manager resigning 7 games into the regular season is extremely unusual.
So what really happened? Well the truth is that we may never know what actually motivated this decision, but what we can tell you is that it has become clear now that Rutherford and ownership were not seeing eye to eye on everything. The first waves of this nature came from 93.7 The Fan's Colin Dunlap who reported this week that Rutherford's resignation stemmed from a lack of autonomy in the final year of his deal.
Now that could mean any number of things. However there are now multiple sources are reporting that an attempt at a significant trade on the part of Rutherford would have been blocked by Penguins ownership at some point during the week. Again we go back to Colin Dunlap who claim that none other than defenseman Kris Letang would have been the player on the chopping block. Rutherford reportedly had a trade in place with a team in Canada's North Division before ownership stepped in and shutdown the trade.
Interestingly enough, after initially reporting this week that a blocked trade was "NOT" the source of Rutherford's resignation, Penguins insider Rob Rossi has no also confirmed that ownership did in fact step in to block a trade this week.
Given that the Penguins championship window with franchise players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin appears to be rapidly closing I could certainly see a world in which Rutherford would try and make a blockbuster trade to shake things up. The question is whether or not that decision eventually led to his resignation.
Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images