Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford is sorting through his roster, deciding which players are part of his nucleus and which ones are not.
Center Eric Staal and goaltender Cam Ward clearly are keepers. Rutherford decided defenseman Tim Gleason belonged in the nucleus, too, so he negotiated a four-year, $16 million extension with him.
Now Rutherford wants to work a similar deal with gritty forward Tuomo Ruutu.
“Tuomo is a player we really like, and he said he likes being with the team,” Rutherford told the Raleigh News & Observer. “That's an important first step and we had a good meeting. The next hurdle may be the bigger hurdle, but at least we know we're on the same page.”
That next hurdle is negotiating a contract extension for the pending free agent. Ruutu turns 29 this month. How many years and how many dollars would he need to re-up?
“We need to make a decision and he needs to make a decision,” Rutherford said.
If Rutherford can’t reach a deal in the next week or so, he could move Ruutu to one of several contenders seeking to acquire him in a trade. His reported asking price would be a first-round pick AND a good prospect.
That is a steep price to pay for a third-line player, but Ruutu could add scoring touch and some sandpaper to the front lines of a Stanley Cup hopeful.
The Columbus Blues Jackets appear ready to hold a yard sale. Everything might go!
While other teams have picked up their play – most notably Anaheim and Carolina – the Jackets are now the Team Most Likely To Dump Payroll.
Finding a taker for Jeff Carter and his staggering salary may not be easy, but expect Columbus to make every effort.
Here were some of the other rumors coming out of the All-Star Game:
Would the Dallas Stars really deal Brenden Morrow as part of a sweeping overhaul? If that team is willing to go there, the Red Wings would be just one of the possible bidders.
Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter told the world that he won’t extend his contract before the trade deadline. So teams trying to acquire him from Nashville would do on a rental basis – something that may not excite him. “I'm a Nashville Predator until July,” he told ESPN. “I will focus on making my team better.”
As always, Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke is dying to add size and grit. This has led to speculation about Ryane Clowe (San Jose Sharks) and Tuomo Ruutu (Carolina Hurricanes). The San Jose management insists Clowe is staying put this season.
Goaltender Ryan Miller is no longer regarded as a team cornerstone in Buffalo. Given the number of teams looking for help in the net, expect Miller to become the subject of much speculation. How about a straight-up deal with Anaheim, Miller for Jonas Hiller?
If Anaheim deals Hiller without getting a goaltender in return, would the Ducks send Corey Perry up to Vancouver for Cory Schneider, forward Mason Raymond and defenseman Keith Ballard? Such quality-for-quantity deals usually backfire. Depth is easier to find than high-end talent.
Buffalo also seems likely to shop center Derek Roy. Montreal was linked to him earlier and some folks think the Kings could move into play – despite that team’s apparently depth up the middle.
Meanwhile the Los Angeles Kings are looking to move chronic underachiever Dustin Penner, but what team would really covet him? Eastern Conference teams are always starved for size, but his salary will be tough to digest.
With Carolina willing to move Jarsoslav Spacek, Bryan Allen and/or Tim Gleason, the Panthers might look there once Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford lowers his asking price.
Would Rutherford trade goaltender Cam Ward? He has dismissed such speculation, but other teams are watching carefully. Ward does carry an annual cap hit of $6.3 million for the next five seasons.
If the Canadiens up to sell off some parts, gritty forward Travis Moen might attract some interest. He is headed for unrestricted free agency.
Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen is recovering from knee surgery, but not as quickly as the team hoped. He may not return to action until early March – well after the NHL’s Feb. 27 trade deadline passes.
But that won’t stop Carolina from entertaining trade offers for veteran defensemen Tim Gleason, Bryan Allen and Jaroslav Spacek. Each of those players will become unrestricted free agents after the season and Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford is looking to retool with younger players.
Each of those defensemen could have value to contending teams looking to rent some help. The Flyers, for instance, are looking to fortify their blue line after losing Chris Pronger to a season-ending concussion.
“Despite all the talk that people stir up, I'm approaching it at this stage as being more interested in hockey trades and not deadline trades or trading UFAs,” Rutherford told the Raleigh News & Observer. “If something makes sense for our organization and from a financial point of view, if it seems like something we should do, I'll do it. But I'm not out there making all the calls looking to make trades.
“If we were to trade a UFA for a veteran player, we would want control of him next year or the next few years. Usually, we have looked to bring in younger players, but a hockey deal where a veteran player is under contract also is a possibility.”
How Russians sell hockey tickets
The Hot List
Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Colorado Avalanche, Boston Bruins, Joe Pavelski, Ryan Getzlaf, Alexander Semin.
The Cold List
Buffalo Sabres, Edmonton Oilers,John Tavares, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Vancouver Canucks,