Are The Carolina Hurricanes Playing Trade Deadline Games?

While many of us may list Monopoly or Poker as our preferred game, I’m starting to think Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford has his own preference: driving the 29 other GMs crazy.

Yes, the Carolina Hurricanes are the tease of the NHL’s trade deadline. At last year’s deadline, it was Joni Pitkanen, Jussi Jokinen, and Erik Cole, all top pieces as far as trade deadline’s go that were supposedly available. But then they weren’t. Canes GM Jim Rutherford traded only his depth defenseman Ian White, who he viewed as least important of the four, and ended up re-signing all but Erik Cole.

This year, it started with Tim Gleason, one of the best UFA defenseman allegedly available short of the unlikely-to-be-moved Ryan Suter class. But Rutherford used the trade market against Gleason, so to speak. He took him out to lunch, and gave him the option to either be traded, or immediately sign a contract on Rutherford’s terms, which turned out to be 4 years, 16 million dollars. Gleason took the contract, and now there are rumblings that Rutherford might give the same treatment to Tuomo Ruutu, one of the best “available” UFA forwards.

But what we don’t know in all this is what trade options is Rutherford giving these players to so consistently get them to end up re-signing with his club? I’m starting to wonder if it doesn’t go something like this.
“So… would you like to spend your spring in Hell, or would you like to get paid 16 million dollars to stay here, with your family, where you (presumably) like it?”

Whatever the particulars of the pitch he gives, I wouldn’t be surprised if he gave the same one to his UFA’s at last year’s trade deadline. I’m also guessing a Tuomo Ruutu re-signing will be announced in the next few days, even though he was supposed to be 100% available just a few weeks ago.

The confusing part of all this, to me, is that the reason all these players are always said to be available in Carolina is that the Hurricanes don’t have the money to keep them. It’s not that they wouldn’t want to keep the Gleason’s and Ruutu’s of the world if they could, or that those players wouldn’t want to stay; it’s that they supposedly don’t have the money.

But then they do. Sort of like these players are available, but then they aren’t. Conspiracy? Could the Spanish government be lending them money? I wonder if Cristiano Ronaldo can skate. If Lebron James can play in the NFL, I don’t see why they can’t get Ronaldo.

But not Lionel Messi, so they still won’t be able to beat Barcelona. Damn!

My take? Tuomo Ruutu will re-sign in Carolina, too. In fact, I don’t even believe all these players in Carolina are available anymore. It’s the last two years now Carolina’s players have supposedly been available, and available earlier than any other players, and more widely reported to be available, but then barely any of them end up getting moved.

I think Rutherford is just playing all the other GMs, as well as his own players; or rather, he is playing his players against the other GMs, and the possibility of a trade, to get them to re-sign before July 1st, when the price could be driven up. I think he banks on players (usually with families) not wanting to be uprooted, even for just a few months. If these players weren’t worried about being traded, they could just wait until Unrestricted Free Agency on July 1st and weigh all their offers, putting the Hurricanes at a disadvantage. But if they’re scared of being uprooted mid-season, maybe they take that 16 million dollar contract out of convenience instead of waiting to possibly get 18 million (for example) on July 1st.

It’s very cheeky by Rutherford, but so far effective. He’s been able to keep most of his important players, besides Erik Cole last season, even though he had the hockey world thinking all of Pitkanen, Jokinen, Gleason, and Ruutu would be gone (Ruutu still could be, but I’m starting to have my doubts).

Now, Rutherford isn’t the only GM playing deadline games, although his seem to be the most significant. Here in San Jose, I’ve noticed a trend where Sharks GM Doug Wilson is rumored to be interested in players he probably really isn’t interested in. About three weeks ago, the Sharks playoff foe the Vancouver Canucks were reported to be frontrunners to acquire Travis Moen, but then out of nowhere, a week later, the Sharks all of a sudden had “interest.”

Doug Wilson really wants to reacquire the guy he was so disappointed with last time? I don’t think either party parted ways happy with the other.

This isn’t even the best example, as it’s still very possible the Sharks could be interested in Moen. But I’ve noticed many occasions where it’s obvious Doug Wilson is just pretending to be interested in players his rivals are interested in, so as to inflate the price they will have to pay. It’s a great strategy, at least until it backfires and GMs catch on to your dishonesty.

Regardless, it’s the season for deadline games, and Jim Rutherford seems to be beating just about everyone the last two seasons, including, quite possibly, his players.

Hey, I’d take 16 million dollars over three months in Hell, too.

Written by Shark Circle

Stay tuned for our next Carolina Hurricanes blog: “Is Jeff Skinner The Justin Bieber Of The NHL? Shark Circle Weighs In!”