Carolina Hurricanes Maximize Return for Tuomo Ruutu, Acquire Andrei Loktionov

Mark JonesSenior Analyst IMarch 5, 2014

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 14:  Tuomo Ruutu #15 of the Carolina Hurricanes looks to pass the puck against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena on December 14, 2013 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)
Norm Hall/Getty Images

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:

Yahoo's Nick Cotsonika followed with the baseline comparison between Ruutu and Andrei Loktionov:

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.

NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 19: Andrei Loktionov #21 of the New Jersey Devils gets set against the New York Rangers at the Prudential Center on October 19, 2013 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils won 4-0. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Loktionov was drafted in the fifth round, No. 123 overall, by the Los Angeles Kings in 2008, and played his first multi-game NHL stint in 2010-11.

After finding the Kings' depth chart increasingly crowding him out of playing time, Loktionov requested a trade and was dealt to New Jersey for a fifth-round selection in Feb. 2013.

Loktionov Stats by Season
SeasonTeamGPGoalsAssists+/- RatingCorsi Per.
2010-11LAK1943+2N/A
2011-12LAK3934-453.7%
2012-13NJD2884-259.5%
2013-14NJD4848+257.3%
Career Totals1351919-2
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.

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 02:  Andrei Loktionov #21 of the New Jersey Devils in action against the San Jose Sharks at the Prudential Center on March 2, 2014 in Newark, New Jersey. The Sharks defeated the Devils 4-2.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

In Carolina, Loktionov—who is expected to wear No. 8should 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.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 25:  Carolina Hurricanes President and General Manager Jim Rutherford speaks on the phone during the 2010 NHL Entry Draft at Staples Center on June 25, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

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.

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.

 

Mark Jones has been a Carolina Hurricanes featured columnist for Bleacher Report since 2009. Visit his profile to read more, or follow him on Twitter.