Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 07/23/09 at 09:36 PM ET
On Thursday, the Hurricanes made a very nice announcement. Tuomo Ruutu has been re-signed to a three year deal valued at $11.4M. He will be paid $3M in 2009-10, $4M in 2010-11 and $4.4M in 2011-12. The 26-year old Finn, who was the ninth overall pick in the 2001 Entry Draft, is coming off his best NHL season and his only postseason. He put up new career bests in goals (26), assists (28) and points (54). He also led the Hurricanes with 228 hits in the regular season. He had just four (1/3) points in 16 playoff games this spring.
In addition to being a reliable offensive player, Ruutu is a very big hitter and a fierce competitor. He was acquired from Chicago on February 26, 2008 in exchange for Andrew Ladd, who was the fourth overall pick in 2004. I think it’s safe to say that both teams have benefited from this trade. It took no time at all for Ruutu to endear himself to the Caniacs, as he made a big impact before he had even been in Raleigh for an hour. For details and video of that, read on
On the day of that trade, the Hurricanes had a home game against the New Jersey Devils. The Blackhawks had just returned from a road trip to the Kings and Ducks. For a lot of reasons, it was very doubtful that Ruutu would be able to make it to Raleigh in time to join the Hurricanes for their 7:00 game. He made it. Just. His flight touched down at RDU at something like 6:24, where he was met by HHOFer and Canes assistant GM Ron Francis. They had a police escort to the RBC Center, just a few miles away, and Ruutu was given a brief primer on Carolina’s style of play. He barely made it in time for the puck drop, and before he even had a chance to learn any of his teammates’ names, he made a big impression on the Caniacs. In his second shift as a Hurricane, he delivered a humongous hit to Colin White. In the second, he assisted on a Sergei Samsonov goal. Later still in the game, he suffered a nasty cut to his face when he took an inadvertant high stick from Patrik Elias. In barely 15 minutes of ice time, he led all Canes with three hits in the game, including the huge one on White. After the hit from Elias, he bled profusely and required 40 stitches. The next day, even with a cut and swollen face, he was all smiles when the media asked him about his first day as a Hurricane.
Here’s the video of his first day with the team. Keep in mind that he had literally been in Raleigh for 30 minutes when this all started.
I have no problem with this contract. The back end of it might be a little high, but he’s definitely earned the pay that he’ll get in 2009-10.
With this deal, the Hurricanes avoided the arbitration hearing that was scheduled for next Thursday. Apparently, both sides couldn’t be happier about that. Nobody wants the arbitration hearing. It is, at best, awkward, and at worst, a nightmare for both parties. There’s that story about the Isladers goaltender in the eighties who was driven to tears by Mike Milbury in the arbitration hearing Jim Rutherford is well aware of the hazards of going into one of those hearings. Javier Serna quoted him in an article over on Canes Now:
“It’s not a fun process. The team is put into a position to say things about players that they really don’t want to say. It’s a negative process, and it’s not how we want to deal with players.”
Tuomo Ruutu couldn’t agree more. He’s happy to have avoided arbitration, and happy to be back in the fold for three years.
Ruutu has been at his cottage in a remote area of southern Finland this summer, where cell phone coverage is “spotty” and the nearest fax machine is about an hour away. His agent, Bill Zeto relayed Ruutu’s excitement about the deal (via Lorenzo Perez at Canes Now)
“It’s one of those times when players sign contracts, everyone says the right thing,” said Zito. “He means it. He loves it there. He loves his teammates. He loves the weather. He loves the fans.”
Obviously, we fans love Ruutu too.
Now that everything is in order with the forwards, there’s still some work to be done with the defense. The Canes are a little above their budget, but there’s still talk of buying out Frantisek Kaberle’s $2.2M contract, which would save the Canes roughly $1.5M. Better yet, it would give them that cash to re-sign Dennis Seidenberg or look elsewhere. Honestly, I think the Canes have gotten a cheaper Seidenberg out of Andrew Alberts, so they’ll be looking elsewhere.
Last week, the good news came in pairs. Hopefully, the good news will come in pairs again this week. Hopefully, the Canes will either resolve the situation with Seidenberg, or move on to some other defensive defenseman.
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About Red and Black Hockey
David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.