Jan Rutta was a third-pairing defenseman and penalty-killer during his single season with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
He appeared in 56 games, averaging 17 minutes, seven seconds of ice time per game after signing as a free agent from Tampa Bay last summer. Of that total, 2:33 — more than any Penguins defenseman except Brian Dumoulin — came while the team was shorthanded.
Rutta also averaged, uh, two seconds of power-play work per game.
Now that he’s with the Sharks, he figures to be deployed on a higher pairing and remain a key penalty-killer, while also getting meaningful time when San Jose has a man-advantage.
That, at least, is what Sharks GM Mike Grier told Sam Jose Now is the current plan.
Sharks coach David Quinn, meanwhile, appears to envision a more traditional role for Rutta.
“Jan’s going to be a guy that we’re going to rely on to play defensive minutes,” he told SJN. “Give us a little bit more heaviness on the blue line.”
So whether Rutta actually will have an opportunity to add to his career total of two man-advantage goals — both scored as a rookie with Chicago in 2017-18 — remains to be seen.
Bruins’ centers of concern
Boston’s seven-game loss to Florida in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring was an upset rivaling the Penguins’ second-round defeat by the New York Islanders in 1993.
OK, so the Bruins weren’t two-time defending Stanley Cup champions,s as those Penguins had been, but they had earned the NHL’s best regular-season record (65-12-5) and finished no fewer than 42 points ahead of the Panthers.
And things haven’t gotten any better for Boston since its playoff run ended more than a month earlier than many had expected.
The Bruins have had to deal with serious salary-cap constraints that limited their ability to retain (or acquire) players and their top two centers, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, retired, creating serious voids that won’t easily be filled.
Especially when operating with limited cap space.
For now, the top candidates for the jobs previously held by Bergeron and Krejci appear to be Charlie Coyle and Pavel Zacha.
Both are quality players with considerable value, but it would be a lot to expect them to seamlessly replace Bergeron and Krejci.
Which is part of the reason the 2022-23 Bruins, much like the Pittsburgh Penguins 30 years earlier, likely will be left to wonder what might have been — and when, if ever, they’ll get another chance to challenge for a Cup as good as the one they let get away.
Sutter takes a shot
Former Penguins center Brandon Sutter is, at best, a long shot to earn a contract in Edmonton this fall.
The Oilers have invited him to training camp on a professional tryout, and the odds are always stacked against a player in that situation.
What’s more, Sutter, who spent three seasons with the Penguins after being acquired from Carolina in the Jordan Staal trade in 2012, hasn’t played since the 2020-21 season. He sat out 2021-22 because of the effects of a bout of long Covid and was not re-signed by Vancouver for the past season.
But while the Oilers are loaded down the middle — they can send out lines centered by Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — their penchant for playing McDavid and Draisaitl together could open a roster spot that wouldn’t otherwise be available to an extra center.
If Sutter, who proved to be a capable replacement for Staal on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ third line, can lift his two-way game back to the level it reached before his illness, he might give Oilers management reason to consider keeping him.