Courtesy of Point Park University

Exclusive: No free-agent spree for Rutherford ☕


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Workers prepare signage outside Rogers Arena early Thursday afternoon. - DEJAN KOVACEVIC / DKPS

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Jim Rutherford doesn't have a lot of salary-cap space with which to work.

And what little he does have, he apparently isn't inclined to spend on other team's free agents.

Not when the Penguins first enter the market, anyway.

Rutherford told Thursday afternoon that he does not plan to speak with any free-agents-to-be when they are allowed to begin interviewing with prospective employers Sunday, and was emphatic that he won't be chasing any big names on July 1.

"I don't expect to talk to any," he said. "We're not going to have the cap space. And even if we have the cap space, any free agents signed July 1, they're going to have (long-term deals). Not only do we have to look at this year, we have to look at next year, when we have some important players whose contracts are up."

While he did not rule out adding a free agent or two before training camp, it sounds as if that will happen only if a couple of key conditions are met -- that the player is looking for little money and few years.

"If there are free-agent signings for us, it would happen later in the summer," he said. "And it would be on a short-term basis."

Rutherford is not the only GM whose approach to free agency will be shaped, at least to some extent, by an unusually modest rise in the cap ceiling.

It was $79.5 million in 2018-19, and had been predicted to come in at $83 million next season. In reality, however, it is going to fall short of that, which makes shedding Olli Maatta's $4.083-million AAV in the trade that sent him to Chicago last Saturday all the more significant.

"We were working off the assumption it was going to be $83 (million), and it's not going to get to $83 (million)," Rutherford said. "The trade we made with Chicago ... took all the pressure off of us. If we hadn't done that trade, we would have been over the cap and in a very tough spot."

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