Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford said today he hopes to lock up restricted free agent Tuomo Ruutu with a two- or three-year deal.
In a phone interview this morning, Rutherford also said the team was pursuing a couple of free agents to add depth to the team.
Rutherford declined to identify any of the players targeted by the Canes, but he said those deals could be completed as soon as today. Jason Karmanos, the team's executive director of hockey operations, was working on those possible deals.
Ruutu, who filed for arbitration this week, could reach terms with the Hurricanes before his hearing, which has not been scheduled, according to both Rutherford and Ruutu’s agent, Bill Zito, of Chicago-based Acme World Sports.
League-wide, arbitration hearings will begin July 20 and are scheduled to conclude before Aug. 1, Rutherford said.
"At this point, we haven’t been able to get to the number that everybody’s satisfied with," Rutherford said.
Zito, also reached by phone, declined to say how close the sides were, adding that "it's always preferable to settle before arbitration."
"I don’t see a lot of drama," Zito said. "If there's a way to get it settled and make everybody happy, I'm certain it will be explored. And if not, the arbitrator decides, and that's it. He wants to be there. I know they like him. He likes it there, the coaching staff, the organization, the fans and the lifestyle there. It’s a wonderful place."
Last year, forward Chad LaRose filed for arbitration but wound up signing a one-year deal for $875,000 before his hearing.
Ruutu, a physical player who scored a career-high 26 goals last season, figures to command much more than that. The restricted free agent made $2.25 million last season. He had 228 hits last season, ranking him 10th in the league in that category.
While Rutherford praised Ruutu’s physical game, his relative youth, a career year, and team mentality, he said the team still has to be cautious because of Ruutu's past injuries.
But how do you find the line with a player that the team needs to be physical?
"There probably isn't a line," Rutherford said. "For him to be effective, he has to continue playing the same way. Scaling it back, he's probably not as vulnerable to injuries, but he's not as effective."
Ruutu played only 15 games during his injury-shortened 2005-06 season with the Chicago Blackhawks. However, Zito pointed out that Ruutu missed only three regular season games and two playoff games last season. The last three years, he played at least 71 games a season.
"Other than that, he hasn't missed any substantial amount of time," Zito said. "I wouldn't call him injury prone."