With the Feb. 27 trade deadline about six weeks away, Carolina Hurricanes right winger Tuomo Ruutu and defenseman Tim Gleason have been frequently mentioned as trade candidates.
Ruutu and Gleason are eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer and aren’t expected to be re-signed by the Hurricanes. Add in the fact their team is among the few considered “sellers” at this point and it’s no wonder they’ve become fixtures in the trade rumor mill.
Ruutu, who turns 29 in February, has had his best seasons with the Hurricanes, including a 26-goal, 54-point performance in 2008-09 and a career-high 57 points last season.
In 45 games this season, Ruutu was the Hurricanes second-leading scorer, with 15 goals and 26 points, on pace for 27 goals and 47 points. He’s a disciplined, physical player (second in the NHL in hits last season with 309) who plays well at both ends of the ice.
One down side to Ruutu is his lengthy injury history. Knee injuries hampered his development early in his career with the Chicago Blackhawks and a shoulder injury limited him to 54 games in 2009-10.
Another is his lack of NHL playoff experience. In his eight seasons with Chicago and Carolina, Ruutu has only been in the playoffs once, in 2009, when the upstart Hurricanes defeated the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins on route to the Eastern Conference final before being swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Ruutu had only four points in 16 playoff games.
Still, his physical two-way play and decent scoring touch makes him a valuable commodity at this time of year for playoff contenders seeking top-six forward depth.
He’s being paid $4.4 million for this season, though the salary cap hit is $3.8 million. More than half of that has been paid by the Hurricanes, which makes him an affordable pickup.
One possible destination is Detroit, where he could replace the fading Todd Bertuzzi as their second-line right winger.
Another is his former team, the Blackhawks, who were in the market for a top-six forward, a need which will be more urgent to fill with left winger Patrick Sharp now sidelined with a hand injury.
Gleason, who’ll turn 29 in late January, is also an eight-year NHL veteran, playing most of those with the Hurricanes.
At six-foot and 217 pounds, Gleason isn’t among the biggest blueliners, but he doesn’t shy away from the physical play and is unafraid to drop the gloves if necessary. He can also chip in offensively, as his 12 points in 45 games has him on pace for 21 points.
Apart from fellow blueliner Jaroslav Spacek, Gleason’s the only Hurricanes defenseman with a plus-minus in the black (plus-2). He’s also a good shot-blocker, leading the Hurricanes in that category last season (141), making him valuable to playoff-bound clubs seeking experienced depth on the blueline.
Gleason’s physical style has resulted in a bit of an injury history, though nothing comparable to Ruutu’s. Last season marked the first time in his career he played a full 82-game schedule.
Gleason is earning $3.5 million this season, but the cap hit is $2.8 million, so his affordability will also make him enticing for clubs with limited cap space.
Gleason’s been linked to the Philadelphia Flyers, who’ve reportedly been seeking more blueline depth with captain Chris Pronger out for the season and playoffs to a concussion.
It remains to be seen, of course, where these two eventually wind up, but it’s a good bet both will be suiting up for new teams by the trade deadline.
Rumor Focus appears Tuesdays and Thursdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla’s Korner.