Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford ranks versatile center Brandon Sutter among of his favorite players. One Rutherford has now traded twice.
The Penguins sent the 26-year-old Sutter to the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday in exchange for forward Nick Bonino and defenseman Alex Clendening. The teams also swapped 2016 draft picks, with Pittsburgh getting Vancouver's second-round selection and the Canucks receiving a third-round choice from the Penguins.
Pittsburgh also signed veteran forward Eric Fehr to a three-year deal in a pair of moves that give the Penguins needed forward depth, particularly along the bottom two lines.
Rutherford said the two moves "went hand in hand" as Pittsburgh retools around stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins acquired Phil Kessel from Toronto earlier this month to give Crosby or Malkin a high-profile and dynamic running mate. Shipping Sutter west in exchange for the less-expensive Bonino while also adding Fehr gives coach Mike Johnston more flexibility as the team tries to rally after a disappointing first-round playoff exit.
Sutter was among that group for the past three seasons after Rutherford - then the general manager in Carolina - sent Sutter to Pittsburgh for Jordan Staal. A talented two-way player, Sutter is an effective penalty killer with an occasional scoring touch. He tied a career high with 21 goals in 2014-15 but was also entering the final year of his contract and likely due a significant raise next summer. With a large portion of the salary cap eaten up by its star-laden core, Pittsburgh opted to move Sutter - who has a cap hit of $3.3 million in 2015-16 - while it could still get some value from him.
A popular figure in the dressing room, Sutter was a steadying presence. He'll get a chance to do it now in Vancouver, which hasn't won a playoff series since reaching the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals.