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The Pittsburgh Penguins were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs against the Washington Capitals and the Capitals eventually won the Stanley Cup. They weren't the only winners of the Stanley Cup Finals. Do you want to know who also was a winner in the finals this season? Believe it or not it's Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford.
You must be thinking how could a general manager to a rival team be also a winner? Well here are a few reasons Jim Rutherford is a winner in these finals.
The first reason is he got rid of the right goaltender in the NHL Expansion Draft last summer. Teams were only allowed to protect one goalie and they decided to keep Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury waived his no-movement clause.
The Washington Capitals faced both Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury in the playoffs. A lot of Penguins fans questioned whether or not Rutherford made the right decision. Fleury led the first year Vegas Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Finals and Matt Murray didn't get past the second round this season.
A lot of Pittsburgh fans questioned Matt Murray's glove side, but Marc-Andre Fleury's glove wasn't that good as well in the finals. The fans that said Pittsburgh should have kept Fleury over Murray were quickly silenced in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Matt Murray had a better series against the Washington Capitals than Marc-Andre Fleury did and Murray played in one extra game. Murray's numbers against the Capitals was a .905 save percentage and a 2.67 GAA. Fleury's numbers against the Capitals was a .849 save percentage and a 4.00 GAA.
Murray had arguably a weaker defense than Fleury did, despite Fleury playing over his head in the first three rounds and that's something that can't be taken away from him.
The second reason Rutherford is a winner is because he knows Matt Murray is the starting goalie for the Pittsburgh Penguins for the next decade and he is just 24 years old. Meanwhile Marc-Andre Fleury is 33 years old and he may not be playing hockey much longer. Had Rutherford protected Fleury instead, Pittsburgh might have gotten the same result this season and Murray would have tighten down in the Stanley Cup Finals.
I am not saying that Fleury looked lost in the finals, he just faced a team that knew how to finish better than any team he faced in the west.
The third reason is because Jim Rutherford doesn't have to second guess himself all summer long. He would have love to seen Marc-Andre Fleury win another Stanley Cup and he said it himself, but Rutherford doesn't have to worry all summer and next year if he made the wrong decision. Even though Fleury is a very good goalie, the Vegas Golden Knights may not be the same team next season. As long as Matt Murray is healthy and Rutherford makes some tweaks to the roster, they should be back in the playoffs and have another opportunity to win another Stanley Cup. Rutherford also made a statement one time to fans who questioned his decision.
Matt Murray is also owed $3.75 million for the next two seasons and he will probably get a contract extension at some point. Marc-Andre Fleury is owed $5.75 million next season and he will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2018-2019 season. Jim Rutherford also couldn't afford to keep two number one goalies on the roster and Matt Murray is cheaper and younger.