Jim Rutherford says he isn't surprised that Bill Guerin has been hired to be general manager of the Minnesota Wild.
Perhaps because Rutherford did his part to help Guerin get the job.
It turns out that after two impressive performances by Guerin in interviews with Wild executives, team owner Craig Leipold contacted Rutherford to get a scouting report of sorts on the guy who had emerged as a leading candidate for the position.
The review Leipold received apparently ran the gamut from favorable to downright flattering.
"I just told him the obvious," Rutherford said this evening. "That (Guerin) has worked hard to get to this place, he's done a good job developing players in the Penguins organization over the last few years and his leadership qualities have always helped our organization. Not only as a player, but in the front office."
Guerin, who joined the Penguins' front office in a player-development role in 2011, was in his fifth season as assistant GM here and had established himself as a trusted adviser.
"He was involved in any trade talks or any player transactions that we've had in the past," Rutherford said. "His voice was important."
Guerin's departure leaves Rutherford with one assistant, Jason Karmanos, but Rutherford said there is no urgency to hand Guerin's old title to someone else.
"I'll definitely take my time, maybe up to the end of this season, as to (deciding on) somebody who will officially get his title as assistant GM," Rutherford said. "I try to put people in place who, if somebody moves out for whatever reason, we have insurance, we have backup people, people who can fill roles. And we're going to be able to do that in this case."
Guerin is the third young executive who has apprenticed under Rutherford to take a position elsewhere, joining Jason Botterill, now the GM in Buffalo, and Tom Fitzgerald, who is Ray Shero's assistant GM in New Jersey.
At some point, all three were considered possible successors for Rutherford but opted to move on when another opportunity arose.
It probably was wise to do so because, according to Rutherford, retirement isn't something that's turning up on even his long-range radar these days.
Indeed, when the subject of him possibly grooming an eventual successor was broached, Rutherford was quick to shoot it down.
"You're getting ahead of yourself," he said.
He acknowledged, though, that he has a few candidates in mind to inherit his duties at some point in the future.
"We have some guys I feel can do that role, within time," he said. "I'll get to that at the right time."
Former Penguins center Matt Cullen, who recently returned to the organization in a player-development role, will take on at least one of Guerin's former duties, although Rutherford cautioned that "it's too early to tell" whether Cullen might have the makings of an assistant GM in the future.
For the time being, Cullen will assume Guerin's responsibilities as a liaison between players and the coaching staff and front office.
"One of the things Billy was part of was being that person who could communicate with some of the players with the Penguins and pass information on to the coach, or me," Rutherford said. "We're fortunate that we hired Matt Cullen, because that's the role he was going to take. That's an area I feel very comfortable with, with Matt Cullen in that role."
Although Rutherford conceded that the timing of Guerin's departure was not optimal, since training camp begins Sept. 13, he said there is no need to distribute his duties immediately. Even settling on someone to shoulder Guerin's responsibilities as GM of the Penguins' American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre, which might be the most pressing concern stemming from his departure, can be put off for a while.
Among the candidates for that position are Karmanos, pro scouting director Derek Clancey, pro scout Ryan Bowness and new Baby Penguins coach Mike Vellucci, who was coach and GM of the Calder Cup champion Charlotte Checkers last season.
"I don't need to make that decision today," Rutherford said. "I have a few thoughts on that, and I'm going to take my time."
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