The status quo is not going to remain in Pittsburgh this year.
Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford told reporters Thursday he did not see what he wanted to this season and changes will be coming after Pittsburgh was swept by the Islanders and knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.
“In (2016 and 2017), we were a team. We were a very tight-knit team,” Rutherford said, via NHL.com. “I didn’t see that this year almost from Day 1. I didn’t see a point where guys came together as a team.”
The Penguins have made back-to-back exits before the Eastern Conference Finals over the last two years after making the conference finals in three of the previous five seasons.
The team’s first-round exit this week is the first time they had lost in the first round since the 2014-15 season when the team fell to the Rangers in five games.
This was the first time the Penguins have been swept in a postseason series since Pittsburgh was swept in the Conference Finals by the Bruins in 2012-13.
Changes will be made.
“I wonder if it’s because there’s too many guys content with where they are in their careers now after winning a couple Stanley Cups,” Rutherford said. “Is that a signal where some of that has to be changed, where you’ve got that eagerness again?”
Trade rumors have come up with several players, especially Phil Kessel, who has been brought up in discussions for several years now. However, with his limited no-trade clause, he will be difficult to deal with three years remaining on his current eight-year contract.
Some rumors have said everyone on the team is available with the exception of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Believe what you will of those rumors, but with the way Rutherford is talking, it might not be so hard to believe.
“The window is still open,” Rutherford said. “I think it should be open for more than just one year also. I’ll say the obvious based on how things finished, we’re not going to do it the way we finished.”