RALEIGH — Carolina Hurricanes forward Tuomo Ruutu is expected to be sidelined three weeks with an upper-body injury, general manager Jim Rutherford said Tuesday.
How that could affect Ruutu's future with the team remains to be seen.
Ruutu was injured Monday early in the first period of the Canes' 5-3 win in Montreal over the Canadiens. The team returned to Raleigh after the game and Ruutu underwent an MRI on Tuesday, Rutherford said.
Ruutu, who leads the Canes with 17 goals, is due to become an unrestricted free agent after the season and had been the subject of much NHL trade speculation. Rutherford met with Ruutu late last week, saying re-signing Ruutu had become a priority and that a decision could be reached this week.
Rutherford said Ruutu's injury would not affect, or put on hold, the negotiations on a contract extension.
"It will have no impact," Rutherford said. "The fact that we'd like him to stay and like to re-sign him has not changed in any way."
How it might affect teams interested in trading for Ruutu is another matter. The NHL trade deadline is Feb. 27 and questions about Ruutu's availability, and his effectiveness after returning, could cause some teams to back away.
Ruutu has been playing on Eric Staal's line opposite winger Jiri Tlusty in recent games and the line has been the Canes' most productive. An aggressive player, Ruutu is tied for second on the team in points with 30, has a plus-3 rating and 106 hits for the season.
The Hurricanes on Tuesday recalled forward Drayson Bowman from the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL, reassigning forward Jerome Samson to the Checkers. The Canes' next game is Friday against the San Jose Sharks, allowing extra time to decide on the personnel move to replace Ruutu.