Jim Rutherford's transactions in 20 years at the helm of the Carolina Hurricanes take up four full pages of 6-point font in the 2013-14 media guide. What have been the most noteworthy - good, bad, or indifferent? Canes Country takes a look back at the 10 most newsworthy (not necessarily the best) in chronological order.
- August 26, 1994: Hartford Whalers acquire Glen Wesley from the Bruins for 1995 (Kyle McLaren), 1996 (Jonathan Aitken) and 1997 (Sergei Samsonov) first-round draft picks
Less than two months after taking over the Whalers' GM reins from Paul Holmgren, Rutherford pulls the trigger on a statement deal, picking up Wesley for a king's ransom. More of an offensive force with the Bruins, perhaps a harbinger of Rutherford's later preoccupation with puck-moving defensemen, Wesley morphs into a reliable two-way player who remains with the team for the remainder of his career. The price was steep, but the ultimate validation for the deal hangs in the rafters of PNC Arena, where Wesley's number 2 hangs alongside Francis and Brind'Amour in recognition of his years of service to the club.
- August 25, 1997: Hurricanes acquire Gary Roberts and Trevor Kidd from the Flames for Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Andrew Cassels
Rutherford tinkered around the edges in the summer of 1997 amidst the upheaval of the Whalers moving to North Carolina, but when the team was in place he rolled the dice on a two-time 40-goal scorer who had been injured and out of hockey for well over a year. Roberts laid the training groundwork for the Canes' focus on fitness, establishing a focused mindset that was continued by head trainer Pete Friesen and, eventually, Rod Brind'Amour. Kidd was acquired to serve as Sean Burke's backup, but when Burke's personal problems at the end of 1997 forced a trade to Vancouver, Kidd ably minded the nets until Arturs Irbe wrested the job from him in late 1998.
- July 13, 1998: Hurricanes sign free-agent C Ron Francis
Following the first season in Greensboro, the Canes corrected an organizational injustice from seven years earlier, making their first big splash in the free-agent market by signing Ron Francis, who you may have heard is in the news today, to a four-year contract. Francis led the team in scoring twice during his five years with the Canes, finishing top-two all but one year, but the big-picture advantage in his signing was marketing Raleigh as a place to raise a family and play high-level hockey away from the spotlights of the major markets. It was a refrain Canes fans would hear repeated time and again over the next few years as the Triangle established itself as an NHL market.
- January 23, 2000: Hurricanes acquire Rod Brind'Amour, Jean-Marc Pelletier and a second round pick (later traded to the Avalanche, who selected Argis Saviels) from the Flyers for Keith Primeau and a fifth round pick (later transferred to the Islanders, who selected Kristofer Ottoson)
Not much needs to be said about this deal. Rutherford extracted a high price for his holdout captain, picking up the man who would lead the Canes to the Stanley Cup six years later. Ask Flyers fans, even today, what they think of this deal, and in between the expletives you'll hear that they still revere Brind'Amour there, fourteen years after the trade.
- January 16, 2002: Hurricanes acquire Kevyn Adams, Bret Hedican and Tomas Malec from Panthers for Sandis Ozolinsh and Byron Ritchie
One of Rutherford's greatest traits was getting value for players that just weren't working out (looking at you, Tomas Kaberle and Danny Markov). This might be the gold standard of those sorts of deals. Ozolinsh, while a big-name trade acquisition a year and a half earlier, never panned out in Raleigh, and in exchange for dumping him on the Panthers Rutherford picked up two components of the team that would make an improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final six months later, and would play crucial roles on the team that won the Cup four years after that.
- October 3, 2003: Hurricanes sign free-agent G Jamie Storr
- June 28, 2004: Hurricanes acquire a first round pick from the Blue Jackets (Andrew Ladd) for the Canes' first- (Alexandre Picard) and second-round (Kyle Wharton) picks in the 2004 draft
Another example, like the Francis signing and another trade we'll see later on this list, of Rutherford knowing the moment. The Canes, hosting the rather underwhelming 2004 draft (among the first-rounders: Petteri Nokelainen, Boris Valabik and A.J. Thelen), had their eye on Ladd all along, and injected some buzz into the arena when Gary Bettman made his patented "we have a trade to announce" proclamation. The lineage of this deal has been good to the present day, from Ladd to Tuomo Ruutu and finally to Andrei Loktionov.
- August 2, 2005: Hurricanes sign free-agent RW Cory Stillman; August 6, 2005: Hurricanes sign free-agent LW Ray Whitney
You could easily throw Matt Cullen, signed in the summer of 2004 but never part of the team until after the lockout, into this mix, but these two under-the-radar signings that attracted next to no attention at the time in retrospect revealed Rutherford as one of the few general managers, along with the likes of Bryan Murray and Darcy Regier, who was on the pulse of what the game would look like coming out of the 2004-05 lockout. One could reasonably argue that the Canes' Stanley Cup-winning squad had its two most important puzzle pieces fall into place in a five-day span in August 2005.
- January 30, 2006: Hurricanes acquire Doug Weight and Erkki Rajamaki from the Blues for Jesse Boulerice, Mike Zigomanis, Magnus Kahnberg, 2006 first- (later traded to the Devils, who selected Matthew Corrente) and fourth-round (Reto Berra) picks and a 2007 fourth-round pick (Cade Fairchild)
Perhaps the foremost of Rutherford's know-the-moment deals is this one, trading flotsam for the premier player on the market a month before the 2006 trade deadline. Weight had a minimal contribution in the regular season, only scoring 13 points in 23 games with the Canes, but like the Francis signing, the trade was a shot across the bow that the Hurricanes were serious about challenging for the Stanley Cup and were playing to win. Rutherford doubled down after Erik Cole's neck injury when he picked up Mark Recchi, but the Weight deal was the one that put the Canes on the map as a contender in 2006.
- July 1, 2008: Hurricanes acquire Joni Pitkanen from the Oilers for Erik Cole
Facing a protracted contract negotiation the following summer for Cole, a notoriously tough player to sign, Rutherford cashed in by acquiring Pitkanen, whom he had his eye on for years. Cole was a flop in Edmonton and was eventually traded back to Carolina before his contract expired, but Pitkanen quietly became a force on the Canes' blue line, never flashy but conspicuously missing from the roster after shattering his heel on an icing play late in the 2012 season.
- June 25-26, 2010: Hurricanes draft Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk with first two picks of 2010 Entry Draft
Drafting was never Rutherford's strong suit (hello, Igor Knyazev and Philippe Paradis), but the 2010 draft was probably his finest moment. With the first pick on Friday night, the Canes were gifted Skinner, who only went on to win the Calder Trophy the next summer, and with Saturday's first pick the Canes took Faulk, never drafted as a franchise cornerstone but certainly in the process of becoming one.