As the NHL Trade Deadline approaches the trade market is moving at a rapid pace, and the Carolina Hurricanes have joined the fray by sending Tuomo Ruutu to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Andrei Loktionov and a conditional third-round draft pick in 2017. Pulling off this move was a spectacular gain for Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford, and it will help the team fight to become a playoff team once again during the 2014-15 season.
Clearly the biggest asset that came in this trade was Loktionov, a 23-year-old forward who has extremely soft hands, playmaking ability and can be utilized at any three forward positions. With career totals of 38 points in 135 games this hasn’t exactly translated full throttle to the NHL level yet, but Loktionov is young enough to develop into an adequate second line option. For a Hurricanes team that actually has high-end talent up front, bringing in youngsters is much more valuable than veterans which is part of what made Ruutu so expendable.
By trading off Ruutu, the Hurricanes have rid themselves of one of their worst contracts and one that looked likely to hamstring them this offseason. Over the last three seasons the 31-year-old winger has scored a brutal total of 27 goals in 146 games, which is simply not acceptable for a guy who is being given top line minutes. Ruutu comes in at a cap hit of $4.75 million through the 2015-16 season, which he has never been worth and is now money that is available to spend elsewhere.
Moving on from Ruutu means that Carolina now has a mere $46.9 million committed for the 2014-15 season, which will allow the team to re-sign the players they need and to acquire a new core. Amongst the players who look likely to be brought back on new deals are Nathan Gerbe, Jiri Tlusty, Justin Faulk and Manny Malhotra, which should leave the Hurricanes with close to $17 million to spend on veteran outsiders before hitting the expected $71.1 million salary cap of 2014-15.
For a Hurricanes team that looks to be stuck in a never ending cycle of mediocrity and below average play, this is a move that bodes well moving forward. It will not spark the Canes from their current 27-26-9 record to a playoff spot in 2013-14, but it does move on a key cog who has been overpaid and over-utilized in exchange for a talented youngster. Considering that nobody seems to want Cam Ward and that Eric and Jordan Staal are seemingly tied to Rutherford at the hip, this was the best option in a bad situation and should start the wheel on much-needed offseason changes in Raleigh.