When the Winnipeg Jets decide to seriously listen (HASN’T HAPPENED YET) on defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, a free agent at seasons end who is expected to sign elsewhere, Jim Rutherford will be in the mix, NHL sources said this week.

“He’s [Jim Rutherford] obsessed with Byfuglien,” a Penguins source said. “When Jimmy sets his sights on someone, he’ll be in it till the end.”

Rutherford has a history of chasing big name players. Signing Sergei Federov to a tender, acquiring Jordan Staal, making surprise offers to Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in 2012 despite not having the budget to sign either, acquiring Phil Kessel this summer, he’s almost always involved in everything as other executives put it.

“He swings for the fences,” a rival executive said.

Regarding the Penguins blueline I had one high ranking Penguins official on Tuesday tell me he cringes every time this preseason when Kris Letang or Olli Maatta are bracing to take a hit.

The Penguins approached the Jets this summer about Byfuglien when they were dangling Brandon Sutter in talks. Winnipeg didn’t seriously engage in talks at the time.

Byfuglien, 30, is carrying a $5.25 million cap hit and making $6 million this season.

The Penguins won’t be quiet on the rumor mill this season.


— The Penguins as of Monday were still actively shopping a veteran defenseman to open flexibility to sign Sergei Gonchar, NHL sources said. What many are watching is whether Rutherford has it in him to hurt some feelings and tell Gonchar it’s not going to work out. Gonchar had another brutal night vs the Red Wings. Maybe Gonchar makes the decision himself to walk away but talking to the agent yesterday, sure didn’t sound like it.

— A report surfaced this week that Eric Staal was seeking $9 million per season. Staal’s agent Rick Curran strongly denied the rumor, saying there’s been no numbers exchanged between the two sides. More realistic expectations is Staal seeking a six year deal worth $36 million once talks begin.