Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford is sorting through his roster, deciding which players are part of his nucleus and which ones are not.
Center Eric Staal and goaltender Cam Ward clearly are keepers. Rutherford decided defenseman Tim Gleason belonged in the nucleus, too, so he negotiated a four-year, $16 million extension with him.
Now Rutherford wants to work a similar deal with gritty forward Tuomo Ruutu.
“Tuomo is a player we really like, and he said he likes being with the team,” Rutherford told the Raleigh News & Observer. “That's an important first step and we had a good meeting. The next hurdle may be the bigger hurdle, but at least we know we're on the same page.”
That next hurdle is negotiating a contract extension for the pending free agent. Ruutu turns 29 this month. How many years and how many dollars would he need to re-up?
“We need to make a decision and he needs to make a decision,” Rutherford said.
If Rutherford can’t reach a deal in the next week or so, he could move Ruutu to one of several contenders seeking to acquire him in a trade. His reported asking price would be a first-round pick AND a good prospect.
That is a steep price to pay for a third-line player, but Ruutu could add scoring touch and some sandpaper to the front lines of a Stanley Cup hopeful.