By: Adam Gretz
Less than a month away from the NHL trade deadline and rumors are quickly starting to fly.
One of the busiest teams this year is expected be the Carolina Hurricanes, as they're currently near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings and have a number of players eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer. One of those players is forward Tuomo Ruutu, and he could be on the move as early as this week according to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun and TSN's Darren Dreger.
Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford has always been aggressive when it comes to making moves, and has already made a couple this season. A couple of weeks he sent upcoming free agent Alexei Ponikarovsky to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Joe Sova and a fourth-round draft pick, which came just weeks after he shipped disappointing defenseman Tomas Kaberle and the remainder of his contract to the Montreal Canadiens for Jaroslav Spacek. And there could soon be more where that came from.
Ruutu should be able to bring the Hurricanes a better return. In 51 games this season he has 15 goals and 11 assists, and over the past four years has scored at a rate that would average out to nearly 20 goals per 82 games. Any team that trades for him will be on the hook for the remainder of his salary cap hit, which for this week would come out to about $1.3 million for the rest of the season.
There is no shortage of contenders that could be interested, but keep an eye on Pittsburgh, Nashville or Boston, all teams that would Ruutu seem to be an excellent fit for given his aggressive forechecking and the fact at least two of those teams, Pittsburgh and Nashville, could use some an upgrade when it comes to secondary scoring on the wings.
Still, at this point it just seems to be a matter of when and where rather than if. Once that shoe falls the focus will then surely shift to Carolina's other upcoming free agents.
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