It has been a quiet day for the 2014 NHL Trade Deadline for the New Jersey Devils until the final hour began. TSN reported that the New Jersey Devils acquired Tuomo Ruutu from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Andrei Loktionov. The official Twitter account for the Devils noted that the deal also includes a conditional 2017 draft pick for Carolina.
#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
My first impression isn't positive. The New Jersey Devils moved a 23-year old center for an 31-year old winger with an ugly contract. They trade a player with four goals and eight assists in 48 games for a player with five goals and eleven assists in 57 games. According to CapGeek, Ruutu will make $5 million in each of the next two seasons and carries a cap hit of $4.75 million. Likewise at CapGeek, Loktionov was an impending restricted free agent making $700,000. The numbers at Extra Skater this season aren't kind. Loktionov has been given very favorable zone starts this season and has driven play well at evens. Ruutu has been given very favorable zone starts this season and has not. The Devils did need help at wing. Surely they could have done better than taking a guy with a significant contract who hasn't been all that productive and is at an age where players don't tend to become more productive. Especially someone who hasn't scored since January 25 (eleven games, or less games than Michael Ryder).
However, there could be some good to be had here. For starters, it's not like Loktionov has been the cure for what ails the Devils - and no, he hasn't done a whole lot to suggest otherwise. Ruutu has been a positive possession player in prior seasons without being given a load of offensive zone starts at evens. This suggests he doesn't have to be as sheltered, which may give the Devils more flexibility with their roster. He also has shot the puck much more. Loktionov has a career average of 1.35 shots per game. Ruutu is at 1.88 for his career. The Devils do need more shots so he could help out a little bit. Given the style of offense the Devils like to play, Ruutu could be a great fit. He may only be six feet and 205 pounds, but he definitely plays a strong and mean game without being a penalty machine. He could make them stronger along the boards. On top of this, he's been a pretty good percentage shooter. If and when that cold streak ends, the Devils could benefit quite a bit. That would easily make this a "just needed a change of scenery" sort of deal for Ruutu. And as ugly as $5 million looks, well, you can thank David Clarkson for second/third liners getting paid real well because it's going to continue to happen for years to come. (OK, that was a cheap joke, but Tyler Dellow has noticed this happening for years now.) Lastly and most pointlessly, Ruutu will easily be the best Finnish player the Devils ever had when he suits up for the first time.
Still, I'm not a fan of the move. I don't think the Devils really needed to move Loktionov. The Devils are still loaded on defense. They are a bit weaker at center after the move. I don't want Peter DeBoer to move Adam Henrique back to center given his hot streak along side Patrik Elias to account for it. I'm not confident that Jacob Josefson can step in to do the same things Loktionov has been doing. While he's getting closer to the point of his career where "he is what he is," Loktionov could very well be a good player in this league. Especially if he survives less favorable situations regularly. He certainly has been able to pass the puck real well with his minutes. If he can fire more pucks, then Carolina may have a solid player. If that happens, then I really don't like this move since he's on another team in the same division. Mostly, if the team was willing to add a significant contract, then they surely could have attempted for someone who's at least been more productive. I'd like to think there will be another deal because if this is it, then it's a bit disappointing. (As for the conditional pick in 2017, well, whatever it's just a conditional pick in 2017.)
Nevertheless, please have your say about this trade in the comments. Do you think this move can work out in the short term for New Jersey? How do you see the Devils fitting Ruutu into the lineup? What's your reaction? Incidentally, here's Canes Country from the other end of this deal. Thank you for reading.