In an effort to spark a struggling offense, the Carolina Hurricanes are seeking to trade away two valuable role-playing forwards.
To try to improve their No. 23 rank in shots allowed, the 'Canes are looking to swap a rusty shutdown rearguard for a pricey, AHL-buried blue-line liability.
The blatant irrationality of those two concepts, however, seems lost on Carolina's change-thirsty management.
Three of the team's most significant niche-filling players over the past few seasons—forwards Tuomo Ruutu and Jiri Tlusty and defenseman Tim Gleason—have been recently reported as potential trade items.
Per TSN insider Darren Dreger via Twitter last Friday:
Then, per Hockey Night in Canada insider Glenn Healy on Sunday's Hotstove Tonight:
Claude Roussel (Maple Leafs assistant GM) was [at Saturday's Carolina-Boston game] to watch...say, Tim Gleason, who's in the doghouse in Carolina. A John-Michael Liles for Tim Gleason deal might not work; however, they need to add another player to the mix and make it work.
These back-to-back rumors reek of Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford's incurable disease—parochialism.
The 64-year-old has an unmasked tendency to obsess over trading a certain player and unfailingly stick to the decision, even at almost no return. It's happened with Zac Dalpe, Jussi Jokinen, Brian Boucher and Anthony Stewart all in the past year.
Now it may undermine a large part of the Hurricanes' veteran core.
For all of Ruutu, Tlusty and Gleason's important contributions over the last several years, the frustration of a mediocre and frankly unlucky autumn may soon drive each out of Raleigh.
Ruutu has led the 'Canes in hits in three of the past four full regular seasons; he's also just 108 games removed from a career record-shattering 57-point campaign in 2010-11. With two goals now in the past week alone, No. 15—who is still recovering from two hip surgeries earlier in 2013—deserves more time to rediscover his rhythm.
But he might not get to have that.
Tlusty, meanwhile, tied for fifth in the league in goals last spring while scoring 23 in his final 39 appearances of the campaign. His lackluster performance this autumn is doubtless disappointing, but the 25-year-old Czech is historically a slow starter—his stardom last season is by no means an unrepeatable phenomenon.
But he might not get to prove that.
Gleason, while posting some brutal underlying numbers in limited action this season, has traditionally held a vital shutdown role on the Hurricanes' young defense. He's used to facing tough matchups and providing leadership during tough times—things that potential role replacer Brett Bellemore doesn't have experience with. Gleason's presence alone may prove invaluable for the 'Canes down the stretch.
But he might not get to demonstrate that.
The 'Canes have, according to Fox Sports Carolinas' Saturday broadcast, the easiest schedule in the NHL over their remaining 58 games. They also have the potential to be fully healthy—including Anton Khudobin and Alexander Semin—by mid-December.
Nine wins through 24 matches may not look too positive in the cut-and-dry league standings. Nonetheless, Carolina has a plethora of reasons to believe in an upcoming turnaround.
In the current situation, breaking apart and dealing away three critical parts of the club's long-term core would create an entirely unnecessary obstacle at a crucial time in the Hurricanes' season. Such an overhaul could well undermine the structure of the team's roster altogether.
Tuomo Ruutu, Jiri Tlusty and Tim Gleason deserve a longer trial.