Acquired in the Erik Karlsson trade from the Pittsburgh Penguins, Jan Rutta brings a championship pedigree to the San Jose Sharks dressing room. Rutta is a two-time Stanley Cup from his time with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Last offseason, he signed a three-year contract with the Penguins worth $8.25 million ($2.75 million AAV). With the Penguins, he played 56 games, scored three goals, and tacked on another six assists while playing over 17 minutes a night.
With the Penguins, Rutta was one of the mainstays on the penalty kill. He was third among defensemen in total penalty kill minutes played and averaged about 2:33 a night on the kill. The Czechia blue liner turned 33 over the summer but played solid defense for the Pens last season. Last season, his most common partner was Brian Dumoulin. When on the ice, the Penguins had a 46.4% CF. When playing with the more offensively gifted Pierre-Olivier Joseph, their CF was 51.8%. At this stage, the big righty would best be utilized to support a younger, more offensively gifted partner.
Where does Rutta fit?
The Sharks have a lot of defensive first defensemen on their roster. With Kyle Burroughs, Matt Benning, and now Jan Rutta on the right side, the Sharks are loaded with third pairing blue liners. Rutta will also help the Sharks penalty kill on the blue line. While the Sharks will be implementing some new forwards on the penalty kill, it will help the unit to have strong defensemen who can help carry the load while the forwards get comfortable. Any help to lighten the load for Mario Ferraro when down a man can only help and Rutta/Burroughs could be a great addition.
With so many defensemen with overlapping roles, who will sit as younger defensemen start to make their debuts for the Sharks? Henry Thrun and Shakir Mukhamadullin look to be long-term pieces for San Jose, and guys like Rutta are just placeholders until they are ready to go. With Ferraro and Marc-Edouard Vlasic both looking at three years left on their deals and Benning and Burroughs signed by General Manager Mike Grier to long-term deals, Rutta could be the odd man out when they Sharks inevitably start to take a look at their prospects.
What’s next for Rutta?
Rutta still does have two years left on his deal, but could be an interesting trade piece at the deadline. While not worth a high draft pick, Rutta could fetch a solid prospect or a mid-round pick in return as a contender looks to shore up its back end with a rugged, quality defender. If Rutta is a team’s sixth defenseman, they could be doing worse. The Sharks’ issue is they have three Jan Rutta’s on their roster, and would be best to try and open a spot for a player like Thrun sooner rather than later.
Bold Prediction: Jan Rutta’s time in San Jose is short, as he is traded before the trade deadline.
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