Tuomo Ruutu may have changed teams but his demeanor hasn't changed.
Ruutu came off the ice Monday at PNC Arena after the New Jersey Devils’ morning skate with a smile on his face, upbeat, happy to see some familiar faces.
Ruutu was a fixture with the Hurricanes for parts of seven seasons before the popular Finnish forward was traded to the Devils on the March 5 deadline for forward Andrei Loktionov. The Canes were looking to shed salary and Ruutu -- who signed a four-year, $19 million extension in February 2012 -- was moved.
"It always will be nice coming back. I have good memories from here," Ruutu said. "It's always special, for sure."
Asked about the trade, Ruutu noted there had been much speculation and that NHL players know it's part of the business. The Chicago Blackhawks, who made him a first-round draft pick in 2001, traded him to Carolina in February 2008.
"Maybe I wasn't expecting it but it happened," Ruutu said. "You hear about the rumors but until it happens it's tough to be ready for it.
"Obviously you go through a lot of emotions, and not just that day but the next couple of weeks. I left a lot of friends behind but sometimes a new start is great for everybody. So, yeah, mixed feelings."
Talk about a whirlwind. Ruutu began the 2013-2014 season with the Canes, left to again represent Finland in the Olympics, then returned from Sochi to be traded. At the same time, his wife, Emilia, was expecting.
"It was crazy," he said. "I went to the Olympics. Then it was 26 hours of travel to get home. Then I was home for an hour and a half and left for Buffalo for our game. We were on the road and at San Jose (March 4) and then (the trade) happened. I came back with the team and I think I was home for three hours, then flew to Newark and went straight from the rink to Detroit.
"Then my wife was due five days after the trade deadline. It was crazy."
Just a few days after the trade, Ruutu had the winning goal and an assist as the Devils topped the Canes 5-4 in Newark. In early April, he had an assist as the Devils won 3-1 at PNC Arena -- Ruutu's first game back in Raleigh.
Ruutu finished with three goals and five assists in 19 games with the Devils last season. In 26 games this season, he has five goals and an assist and a plus-one rating, but has gone without a point the past six games as the Devils have struggled.
While Ruutu had a string of physical problems while with the Canes, needing surgery for both hips, he said he feels good at 31 and hopes that’s all behind him.
In talking about his role with the Devils, Ruutu smiled and said, "Hopefully to get better every day. There's a reason why I got drafted for this league, but I try to do a little bit of everything. Try to help the team win. That's all I try to do."