It’s becoming somewhat of a habit with Carolina Hurricanes fans that every time GM Jim Rutherford makes an announcement, they prepare for the epic face palm that is inevitably coming next.
Less than a week ago, Rutherford assisted the AHL affiliate Charlotte Checkers in signing over the hill useless goaltender Rick DiPietro to a professional tryout contract (PTO) for absolutely no discernible reason whatsoever. As fans simultaneously raised one eyebrow, they immediately tried their best to maybe see where Rutherford was coming from. Granted, DiPietro is being looked at for Charlotte, however, Rutherford’s fingerprints being on the deal was suspect at best. Just when the fan base thought Rutherford had made the worst decision this season, the challenge was accepted and he topped himself.
The Hurricanes (read: not Charlotte) agreed to terms with veteran center and damaged goods Manny Malhotra for a one year, two way contract. But wait, it gets better.
Malhotra, who played a total of nine games for the Vancouver Canucks last season before missing close to the entire year from an eye injury, will make $600,000 this season at the NHL level. It gets even better.
In eight games this season during his PTO with the Checkers, Malhotra has recorded zero goals, zero assists, zero points, is skating at a -2, and has 17 penalty minutes (PIM). To record 17 PIM in eight games is something close to a feat; it’s almost impressive.
Rutherford, in the team’s press release Thursday afternoon remarked, “[Malhotra] brings a level of veteran leadership to the Hurricanes organization and gives the team depth at the center position.”
Since when do the Hurricanes need depth at the center position? Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Riley Nash and Brett Sutter aren’t enough? Four healthy centermen, a healthy left-shot Nathan Gerbe, and young Elias Lindholm, both of whom could be converted to the center position, and Rutherford is trying to say Carolina needs depth. Can it get better? Oh, yes it can.
Rutherford went on to say, “[Malhotra] has demonstrated in his career that he can be an extremely good defensive player and faceoff man.”
Last season in Vancouver, Malhotra had but two games out of five where his faceoff percentage was above 60 percent. This also includes his bang up 14.9 percent against the Chicago Blackhawks. As for being a great defensive player? Half of his previous eight seasons have seen him north of 40 PIM, including the 76 PIM he racked up in 2005-06 with the Columbus Blue Jackets. With so many of his seasons skating in the minus, that’s not defense, that’s being a liability.
Malhotra’s career faceoff stats may be he only place where Rutherford has a point. The team as a whole is 46.4 percent on the faceoff this season. Malhotra is 56 percent career in the circle and was 58 percent in his last full season. The problem is that the Hurricanes have plenty of places they need work more than the faceoff circle. Malhotra’s faceoff stats are getting unreliable, and with the eye injury, they could get even worse. This money is going towards a forward nobody wants with a bad eye, not more defense or a reliable goaltender.
As if it couldn’t get any worse, Rutherford announced late Thursday afternoon that Malhotra will be included in Friday’s morning skate and actually play against the Tampa Bay Lightning. While the team is putting two AHL level goaltenders on the lineup, the solution Rutherford gives is to ice an under-performing forward.
Decisions like giving Malhotra and DiPietro PTO contracts while the entire team is amid one of the worst free falls in franchise history shows that Rutherford is a cancer on the organization.
Now, with the DiPietro and Malhotra experiments, it’s clear Rutherford is either delusional, incompetent or both. His sights are set in all the wrong places, and sooner or later, the imminent collapse will only hurt the fans.