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Jim Rutherford on why the Penguins traded James Neal (Video)

Greg Wyshynski
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Pittsburgh Penguins' James Neal (18) celebrates his second goal of the second period with teammate Matt Niskanen in an NHL hockey game against the Detroit Red Wings in Pittsburgh, Wednesday, April 9, 2014
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Pittsburgh Penguins' James Neal (18) celebrates his second goal of the second period with teammate Matt Niskanen in an NHL hockey game against the Detroit Red Wings in Pittsburgh, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

PHILADELPHIA – Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said he fielded calls from around 15 teams for winger James Neal before trading him to the Nashville Predators during the NHL Draft on Friday night. 

“Those calls were mostly initiated by them. I had a few offers to consider,” he said.

The offer he accepted was forwards Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling, two players Rutherford says improve his team both financially and from a flexibility standpoint.

“In this deal, we got to drop our cap a little bit. We like Hornqvist as a player. We like that Spaling can play all three forward positions,” he said.

The cap savings are over the next three seasons, during which Neal will make $5 million annually while Hornqvist makes $4.25 million annually for four years.

Rutherford admits trading Evgeni Malkin’s wing man could have ramifications, saying, “You’re always concerned about that when you’re moving a top player. “

But he was sure it could end up helping Malkin as well. “In doing this, it gives us a chance to do something on July 1 that would be suitable to Geno, too,” he said.

(The name Nikolai Kulemin immediately springs to mind.)

Here’s Rutherford on the Neal trade:

Any move of this magnitude goes beyond stats and cap figures. Neal was a divisive player, with multiple suspensions and some scuttlebutt about difficulties in the Penguins locker room.

Rutherford danced around that a bit in talking about the trade, but dropped some cryptic confirmation. There was talk about “changing the mix” with the Penguins. There was the emphasis on Spaling being “a good locker room guy.”

And when asked point blank about Neal’s controversies, Rutherford said: “Everything comes into play when we’re possibly looking at moving a player.”

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