Carolina Hurricanes forward Tuomo Ruutu, who just signed a three-year, $11.4 million deal and avoided arbitration, is just glad to be back in the Carolina fold.
“I definitely like the deal,” said Ruutu, reached by mobile phone at his family cottage in Finland. “I’m glad it’s not going to arbitration. I really wanted to stay in Carolina.”
Last season, Ruutu had a career year, establishing personal highs in goals (26), assists (28), and points (54). He led the team with 228 hits.
“I hope those numbers will go up,” said Ruutu. “I don’t think I’ve reached my peak yet. That’s why I try to work out every day. I’m 26 [years old] and I still think I can get better.”
Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford is betting they will.
“I would expect for him to be somewhere between that 25- and 35-goal range with this contract,” said Rutherford. “He’s certainly in the age where’s he’s coming into his prime.”
Rutherford also said he was glad to avoid arbitration, which had been set for July 30.
“I don’t think anybody likes going into arbitration,” he said. “It’s not a fun process. The team is put into a position to say things about players that they really don’t want to say. It’s a negative process, and it’s not how we want to deal with players.”
Ruutu, who was traded to Carolina by the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2007-08 season, said he didn’t know how much he’d like being here when he was initially traded.
“After I got there, I was like, ‘This is the best place to play hockey. The organization is great. The team is great. We were so close to the Stanley Cup Finals. There’s all kinds of stuff. The fans are great. The people of North Carolina are really nice.”
Rutherford, asked why Ruutu is a favorite player, said, “He’s a great person. He plays to win. He gives you everything he’s got. … He’s a power forward that all teams look for.
“He’s a physical guy and then there’s times where he lays huge hits on his opponents, which really puts the other team back on their heels. It can change opponents' approach to games.”
Ruutu said he works out every day, sometimes twice, even when he’s at his family’s lake cottage in southern Finland, where he said he spends half of his summer, a couple of hours north of his native Vantaa, a suburb of Helskinki.
"It's in the middle of nowhere," he insisted. "I really mean it. It's like sand roads for 10 minutes."
There’s a gym 15 minutes from the cottage, he said, even though it’s pretty secluded.