After months of trade rumors, doghouse-sentenced Tuomo Ruutu was finally traded away from the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday afternoon.
For Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford, the deal salvaged a trade deadline day that was otherwise unexpectedly quiet in Raleigh. The return he garnered with Ruutu was miles more valuable than anyone expected.
Per the New Jersey Devils official Twitter account:
#NJDevils have acquired Tuomo Ruutu from Carolina for Andrei Loktionov and a conditional third-round pick in 2017.— New Jersey Devils (@NHLDevils) March 5, 2014
Yahoo's Nick Cotsonika followed with the baseline comparison between Ruutu and Andrei Loktionov:
Ruutu: 31 years old, five goals, 16 points, two years left at $4.75M hit. Loktionov: 23, four goals, 12 points, last year at $725K, RFA.— Nick Cotsonika (@cotsonika) March 5, 2014
Sportsnet's Chris Johnson added that the 'Canes did retain $0.95 million of Ruutu's cap hit:
In simple terms, the 'Canes saved up a remarkable amount of cap hit (up to $3.075 million in total), acquired a younger, better-suited player and tacked on an above-median draft pick, too.
It's a highly satisfying exchange for the Carolina front office.
|Season||Team||GP||Goals||Assists||+/- Rating||Corsi Per.|
Per NHL.com Stat Database and BehindtheNet.ca
Loktionov, just 23, is eight years younger than Ruutu and has actually averaged a higher points-per-minute rate (.0203 vs. .0197) in 2013-14.
Advanced stats also pointed to the Voskresensk, Russia, native's consistency.
Loktionov boasted the second-best Corsi rating (behind only Jaromir Jagr) on the Devils entering Wednesday at 57.3 percent. While undoubtedly boosted by his team-high 64.0 offensive zone-start percentage, Loktionov was certainly converting effectively on his opportunities.
Said Rutherford on Loktionov, per News & Observer reporter Chip Alexander:
We think he has a high skill level and he can play on the power play. We have to wait and see where he fits in best.
When he was in Los Angeles he played well. When he was with New Jersey and playing with (Ilya) Kovalchuk, he played well. This year his ice time was cut back. We don't know the reason why but he's certainly a very capable player.
In Carolina, Loktionov—who is expected to wear No. 8—should have ample opportunity to earn the third line center role.
The spot has proved a costly weakness for the Hurricanes since Manny Malhotra's mid-January hot streak faded, as neither Malhotra or Riley Nash are capable heirs to the role that has remained unoccupied since Brandon Sutter's departure.
Despite Tuesday's overtime win in San Jose, the 'Canes still sport a mere 6.5 percent chance of making the playoffs, per SportsClubStats.com. As the last lingering postseason hopes inevitably fade away, Kirk Muller and the coaching staff will likely seek to integrate more youth into more significant roles.
Loktionov could benefit tremendously.
Few could have legitimately been dissatisfied with a direct Ruutu-for-Loktionov swap, but Rutherford was also, to his credit, able to receive a significant third-round pick in addition.
2017 may seem a long way off, but—impatience aside—it's just the same value as of any third-round pick. For comparison, consider that Ilya Bryzgalov, Dustin Penner and Stephane Robidas each garnered only single fourth-round selections in Tuesday's deals, and long-rumored Ales Hemsky only warranted third- and fifth-round picks Wednesday.
Who was the winner of the Ruutu-Loktionov trade?
Outside of this favorable exchange, the 'Canes were oddly and perhaps unjustifiably inactive Wednesday. Trade deadline hesitancy and indecisiveness have long been complaints against Rutherford; 2014 was no different.
However, the veteran GM likely kept fans reasonably happy with just two moves— this trade, and Anton Khudobin's affordable two-year contract extension.
The weeks ahead will likely shed an even more conclusive light on the contrast between Ruutu and Loktionov in Carolina.