PITTSBURGH (AP) 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.
''The nice thing is we'll have a competitive camp,'' Rutherford said. ''It's not like guys are automatically put on the top six or the top nine. We have enough good players now.''
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.
''He understands the game, understands how things work, understands things aren't always going to go right and adjust to that,'' Rutherford said. ''He accepted his role ... I'm not sure that would have been the case a year from now when he's free to go.''
Bonino, who has a $1.9-million cap hit next season, had 15 goals and 24 assists in 75 games with the Canucks last year.
''Nick is very smart and has a good hockey sense,'' said Rutherford, who believes Bonino could join the team's second power-play unit.
Fehr gives the Penguins a player that in some ways is a slightly older version of Sutter. The 29-year-old Fehr spent nine of his 10 years in the league with Washington, scoring 19 goals to go with 14 assists in 2014-15. He underwent elbow surgery in June. Rutherford said Fehr - who will have an average cap hit of $2 million - was given a 4-5 month recovery window but is in no need to rush Fehr along.
''We're looking at big picture, if it's six months I'm OK with that as long as it's 100 percent,'' Rutherford said. ''This is a surgery he should totally heal and be back to 100 percent.''
Rutherford didn't rule out additional moves before the team reports for training camp in six weeks but allowed the window is closing.
''It gets limited and guys are available for different reasons,'' he said. ''I think there are still a couple of options out there we could explore, but I'm not quite sure as to where that might go.''