Canes trade Ruutu to NJ Devils

calexander@newsobserver.comMarch 5, 2014 

— The Carolina Hurricanes parted ways Wednesday with popular forward Tuomo Ruutu, trading him to the New Jersey Devils for forward Andrei Loktionov and a conditional draft pick.

While there were some eye-opening deals in the NHL on trade-deadline day, the Canes were content to make only the one trade. Sitting six points out of playoff position in the Eastern Conference before Wednesday’s games, they were neither a big buyer nor seller.

There had been speculation the Hurricanes might look to move a goaltender on Wednesday after signing goalie Anton Khudobin to a two-year contract extension on Tuesday. But general manager Jim Rutherford said Wednesday the team would carry Khudobin, Cam Ward and Justin Peters on the 23-man roster until the end of the season.

“We decided to go with the three goalies and then sort it out in the summertime,” Rutherford said.

Ruutu, 31, recently returned from the 2014 Sochi Olympics, where he played well for Finland and won a bronze medal. Traded to the Canes by the Chicago Blackhawks in February 2008, he helped the Canes reach the 2009 Eastern Conference finals, beating the Devils in the first round of the playoffs.

Ruutu became a crowd favorite at PNC Arena with his bruising style of play, often drawing chants of “R-uuuu” after a big hit. But his physicality also took a toll on him, requiring shoulder surgery and later surgeries on both hips.

Ruutu signed a three-year, $11.4 million contract extension in July 2009 after scoring a career-high 26 goals in the 2008-2009 season. On Feb. 22, 2012, he signed a four-year extension worth $19 million.

“Tuomo was a good player for us but injuries have been an issue,” Rutherford said. “He’s at the point now where he is healthy and getting his game back, but based on the return on investment, we decided to take advantage of the opportunity to get a younger player for him with a good upside.”

Loktionov, 23, has four goals and eight assists in 48 games with New Jersey during his first full NHL season. The Voskresensk, Russia, native made his NHL debut for the Los Angeles Kings during the 2009-10 season before suffering a shoulder injury. He returned the following season and was a member of the Kings’ Stanley Cup championship team in 2011-12, getting in two playoff games.

Loktionov has 38 points and 20 penalty minutes in 135 career games with Los Angeles and New Jersey. He scored his first NHL goal for the Kings in an Oct. 20, 2010 game against the Canes – the same game in which Carolina’s Jeff Skinner picked up his first NHL goal.

“We think he has a high skill level and he can play on the power play,” Rutherford said. “We have to wait and see where he fits in best. When he was in Los Angeles he played well. When he was with New Jersey and playing with (Ilya) Kovalchuk, he played well. This year his ice time was cut back. We don’t know the reason why but he’s certainly a very capable player.”

The Canes moved some salary in the deal. Ruutu is to receive $5 million in each of the next two seasons, although Carolina did retain some of Ruutu's salary. Loktionov had a one-year, $725,000 contract with the Devils and will be a restricted free agent after the season.

The conditional pick received by the Canes in the deal is a third-round selection in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

Loktionov will be at the team’s noon practice Thursday at PNC Arena. The Hurricanes, following a 3-2 overtime win Tuesday over the San Jose Sharks, stayed in California on Wednesday until the 3 p.m. trade deadline had passed, then flew back to Raleigh.

Carolina (27-26-9) lost the first four games of the road trip that followed the NHL break for the Winter Olympics. Jiri Tlusty and Elias Lindholm had goals in regulation and defenseman Jay Harrison scored the overtime winner against the Sharks.

The Canes, who have not played a home game since Feb. 8 against the Montreal Canadiens, host the New York Rangers on Friday at PNC Arena. They then complete a back-to-back with a road game Saturday against the Devils, allowing Ruutu and Loktionov to quickly face their old teams.

Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip

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