The Hurricanes are a team that has often been mentioned in trade rumors for the last few years and one of the most frequent names that often pops up on rumor sheets is their rugged forward Tuomo Ruutu. This reached an all-time high last season when the Hurricanes appeared to be sellers at the trade deadline and had to make a decision on what they wanted to do with Ruutu going forwarrd since his contract expired at the end of the season. Since it was a sellers market and Ruutu was having a good season, trading him would have made sense, but Jim Rutherford elected to re-sign the big Finn for four years instead.
This move was met with mixed reactions. On one hand, you had those who were glad that Rutherford decided to retain one of the team's best forwards at a reasonable term length. Ruutu had just turned 29 last February, so he has at least a few years left of good play left in him and shouldn't experience a huge decline until his new contract expires when he turns 33. This was also a way of Rutherford showing that he is willing to make an effort to retain his key players and not lose him for nothing through free agency. It wouldn't surprise me if he was still feeling the burn of letting Erik Cole walk only for him to have a career season in Montreal and didn't want to have another incident like that.
On the flip-side, Ruutu isn't in the prime of his career anymore as most player's scoring numbers begin to tail off when they enter their 30's, and the Hurricanes may not get good value out of what they are paying Ruutu if his production takes a steady decline. Rutherford also paid a big price to keep Ruutu in Carolina as he will be paid $19 mil. over the four years of his contract, equating to a cap hit of $4.75 mil. per season. Under the previous salary cap, this isn't anything deterimental but it could end up looking bad if the cap goes down a significant amount. It's also worth mentioning that Ruutu hasn't been a dominant player at even strength in two years, which is a major concern when it comes to predicting his future success and whether or not he will be able to give the Canes good value for what they are paying him.
The emergence of Jeff Skinner and off-season additions of Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin will mean that there will be less pressure on Ruutu to be one of the offense's main catalysts, but the Hurricanes are still going to want him to produce at a top-six rate since he is capable of doing so. His 34 points in 72 games last season is a bit disappointing but he was on quite a tear from December until he got injured in mid-February, when his season was derailed a bit. The Hurricanes will need Ruutu to play more like he did before the injury if they want to get the most out of his contract, but they are also going to need for him to contribute in other areas, ones that won't show up on the scoresheet.
With the Hurricanes top-six undergoing a bit of a makeover this off-season, some players are going to have adjust to different roles and Ruutu could end up being one of them. What impact will this have on him and what kind of scoring production should we expect from Ruutu this season? Find out after the jump.