It was not the trade deadline that many New Jersey Devils fans had hoped for, but it was a typical deadline day for General Manager Lou Lamoriello.
The Devils did not acquire the top tier scoring forward that they needed to bolster their offense, but they did make a deal that provides depth to the team’s group of forwards. They traded with the Carolina Hurricanes for veteran right winger Tuomo Ruutu. Ruutu, who is 31 years old, has just five goals and 16 points in 57 games played this season. He’s not a flashy big name player, but he is a solid NHL forward whose hard grind it out style can fit in very nicely to the Devils’ system.
Ruutu is the prototypical low risk in-season acquisition that Lamoriello tends to pursue at the trading deadline. The Devils gave up Andrei Loktionov and a third round pick in the 2017 draft. Loktionov, who the Devils got from Los Angeles for a fifth round pick last season, is a young player who has the talent to be a good player in the NHL. It just seemed as though he had a very tough time finding his way in New Jersey. He was a healthy scratch many times this season, and for a player whose game is predicated on offense he only produced four goals and 12 points in 48 games. Loktionov has talent, and maybe the change of scenery in Carolina will help him elevate his game to a higher level.
The contracts of both players may have also factored into the deal as well. Loktionov is a restricted free agent at the end of the season, whereas Ruutu is under control through the 2015-16 season. Ruutu’s cap hit of $4.75 million a year is a little high for a player that has only produced 16 points, but his game, like many of the players on the Devils roster, is not completely reliant on goal scoring. Lamoriello especially likes the blend of skill and toughness that Ruutu can bring to the Devils. “He does the things that we like to see. He gets right in your face,” Lamoriello said when he addressed the media following the trade, “He’s played in all situations. He’s not a player that’s one-dimensional. He was a pretty high draft pick, we remember him from his draft year when Chicago took him. He’s been consistent and he’s scored. He’s had a 26-goal season, so it’s not something that he’s not capable of doing.” Lamoriello views Tumono Ruutu as a player that can slide right in and help the Devils right away. His hard-nosed playing style fits the mold of the prototypical Devils player, and for those unfamiliar with his game the video below is evidence as what he can bring to this team.
The major storyline that surrounded the Devils through the trade deadline was whether or not they would trade future hall of fame goaltender Martin Brodeur. Brodeur, who has played all 1,250 games of his career with New Jersey, is the face of the franchise. But with his playing time being reduced dramatically with the emergence of Cory Schneider, Brodeur did not dismiss the possibility of waiving his no trade clause if the opportunity to play more with another team in playoff contention presented itself.
There was a flurry of reports in the days surrounding the deadline that the Devils had a deal in place with the Minnesota to send Brodeur to the Wild, and also that Brodeur submitted a list of 8-9 teams to Lamoriello that he would like to be traded to. Ultimately the Devils chose to not part ways with Brodeur, and both parties have vehemently denied that any deals ever truly surfaced. We may never know whether or not the Devils were actively shopping Brodeur to other teams and just couldn’t find an offer that was good enough, but for now the drama of Marty playing for any other team can be put to rest at least until he becomes a free agent at the end of the season.
Overall, I don’t think that Devils fans can be too upset with how Lou Lamoriello handled this year’s trade deadline. It is upsetting that they did not address the glaring need for more firepower upfront, but I think management did a very good job of making a move to swap in a forward in Tuomo Ruutu who really fits the Devils system very well. When it comes to deadline deals, especially ones involving players who are set to be unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, teams really need to take into account how the player will fit into the way their team plays. It’s easy to just say to go out and get a player like Thomas Vanek or Mike Cammalleri, but the player has to be able to gel into the chemistry of the team. There is also no guarantee that adding just one highly touted goal scorer is enough to get the Devils into a playoff spot, so they needed to weigh how much they would be willing to pay for a player who has the potential of playing elsewhere next season.
The acquisition of Tuomo Ruutu is the type of low risk-high reward deal that Lou Lamoriello loves to make at the deadline, and it has the potential to be seen as a crucial aspect to the Devils’ playoff aspirations.