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Crowded on the Front Line - What's Next for Jim Rutherford?

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The Carolina Hurricanes made a nice acquisition on Tuesday when they signed Tom Kostopoulos to a three year deal.  By all accounts the forward is a gritty player who loves to hit, grinds along the boards, and is responsible in his own end.  But how does this move shore up a depleted blueline?   Only General Manager Jim Rutherford knows for sure. 

If the Hurricanes can get Tuomo Ruutu to put his John Hancock on a piece of paper, they suddenly go from being a fragile team, (like many considered them to be at the beginning of last year), to being a physical team.  Ruutu can hit with the best of them.  Erik Cole doesn't mind using his body.  Chad LaRose might not knock many off their feet, but he sure gives the effort.  And now "Tommy the Greek" joins the fray.


Tom Kostopoulos

#6 / Right Wing / Montreal Canadiens

6-0

201

Jan 24, 1979



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Tom Kostopoulos 78 8 14 22 -1 106 0 1 0 1 121 6.6


But where does Kostopoulos fit?  Assuming the Canes can bring back Ruutu, the forward lines would look something like this:

  1. Staal, Cole, Ruutu
  2. Cullen, Whitney, Samsonov
  3. Brind'Amour, Walker, LaRose
  4. Jokinen, Eaves, Kostopoulos

(Tim Conboy has a one way contract and would be a good healthy extra to be used if needed)

Not too shabby, eh?  Mix and match those players any way you want to, it really does not matter.  So what's the problem?  Look how much money is invested in the fourth line.  The franchise simply can not afford to spend so much in that area and go cheap on the blueline.  

With the players currently under contract, the total amount committed so far is about 47 million.  That just leaves about three million in the budget to sign Ruutu and another defenseman or two.  Can it be done?  Anything is possible because budgets are made to be broken, but conventional wisdom would seem to indicate that one of the above forwards will be moved.  But who?

Could Rutherford be thinking about moving the tough negotiating Ruutu for a high level defenseman?  If the Finn is demanding a one year deal, the Canes could very well lose him the following year as he tests the open market.  It might benefit the club to trade him for an experienced defenseman who has already signed for multiple years.

Or maybe the GM will be able to pair up the oft-injured Patrick Eaves and disgruntled Anton Babchuk and trade them for a defenseman?  There is also talk about buying out Frantisek Kaberle and that might free up some much needed cash for the team.

This is the time of year that Jim Rutherford earns his paycheck.