The Canucks (18-22-3) are on pace to miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third straight season. Vancouver, which hosts the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday (10 pm ET; SNP, BSSUNX, ESPN+, SN NOW), entered 12 points behind the Edmonton Oilers for the second wild card in the Western Conference playoffs on Monday.
“When I came here, I knew it was going to be a big challenge and I thought we would have to have minor surgery,” Rutherford said during a wide-ranging news conference. “Have I changed my position? Yes, we have to do major surgery and between now and the start of next season, we’re going to have to make some changes.”
“Some won’t be very popular, some will be popular, but we’re really going to have to do some things that I didn’t think we’d normally have to do when I first got here on how to make those changes.”
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Rutherford, who won the Stanley Cup as general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 and as general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017, has been frustrated in his trade efforts since being hired by the Canucks on December 9, 2021.
In the near term, he faces questions about Boudreau, who has endured regular speculation about his job security, and Horvat, who is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent after this season.
Boudreau was hired on December 5, 2021, five days before Rutherford, who is staying with him for now.
“Bruce is our coach and that’s the way he is today,” Rutherford said.
But Rutherford confirmed that he has spoken with possible candidates to replace Boudreau.
“I’ll say yes and I’m not going to get into names,” Rutherford said. “And this even goes back a couple of months, I called a few people to talk to people, but with that it was clear that I’m calling and talking, but I don’t know that we’re making a change. And I don’t want to make a change.”
Rutherford didn’t seem sure the Canucks could re-sign Horvat. The 27-year-old is tied for fourth in the league with 30 goals in 43 games, one shy of his NHL career high of 31 goals in 71 games last season and looks headed for a big payday. , the Canucks do not have the NHL salary cap space to accommodate.
“I think we’ve done our best, and the contract we have on the table for Bo right now I think is a fair contract for what he’s done so far this year,” Rutherford said of the Canucks captain. “But he’s certainly below market value for what he’s done this year. So we’re in a bind here. He’s had a career year, a pro career, and he’s looking for his money. He deserves it. I don’t blame him. “. .”
Rutherford also said he has started preliminary talks with the striker. andrey kuzmenko about a new contract. The 26-year-old has 38 points (17 goals, 21 assists) in 42 games in his first NHL season and is also eligible to become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
Long term, Rutherford must figure out how to create salary cap space to restructure the Canucks’ roster and make them competitive again. He acknowledged that moving core players and buying contracts this offseason are options he may need to pursue.
“I’m disappointed with the job I’ve done up to this point because when I first came here, I talked about controlling the (salary) cap, … getting rid of some contracts, and we haven’t been able to do that,” Rutherford said. “Now, the opportunity hasn’t been there, but it’s still my job to do it. Until we do that, we won’t be able to make the kind of changes that we need to make, and certainly the changes we need to make to put ourselves in a better position (so that) when players are available, we can go looking for them”.
Rutherford resisted using the word rebuild for the transformation the Canucks require.
“I prefer to call it a shakeup,” he said. “My preferences when we do these deals are not necessarily for draft picks that maybe come in and help the team four years from now, five years from now. I’d rather get younger players out of the NHL that maybe haven’t performed well.” entry level contract. You know, bring them in and give them a second chance.
“We’ll still try to acquire some draft picks, but we have to do it in a way that’s not a long-term rebuild, and I think we can do it. The possibilities are there.”
Without giving names, Rutherford suggested that a player from Vancouver’s core might need to be traded to jumpstart the process.
“I still believe in the core and I still believe that we have a lot of good players, but with that, when I talk about major surgery, well, there might be core players that have to move,” he said. “It may be the way, it may be the only way that we can get significant players back where you take a central player, and you can get a good, young center and a good right-kick defender. It may be the only way to do it.”
Rutherford did not put out a timetable for how long this redevelopment will take, but when asked if he thought it could be completed in less than three years, he said: “I’d like to think it’s faster than that.”
“We have a lot of good players here,” he said. “I actually had this conversation with the team at our opening dinner, and I talked to the team about (how) we have really a lot of good players, but do we have a team? And we’ve never come together as a team, and what it is a team to win at all costs… You can’t just be happy to live in a beautiful city, get paid a lot of money, come to the court and just play and come home.There has to be attention to detail There has to be have responsibility.
“All of those things are very important to becoming a playoff regular. And that’s what we have to work for.”
Rutherford is 73 years old, but said he is committed to the job he signed up for 13 months ago.
“Yes, I am,” he said. “If I have health problems, then I’m out and I can’t do it. But I like a challenge and, man, do I have a challenge.”
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