The Carolina Hurricanes still have a couple of free agents in the mix that remain unsigned. Dennis Seidenberg is testing the marketplace and is probably out of the Hurricanes reach. Anton Babchuk is a restricted free agent who is unsure if he wants to return without a healthy pay increase. More about Babchuk later.
Last but not least for Team Carolina is restricted free agent, Tuomo Ruutu.
Ruutu could very well be the most important piece of the puzzle yet to be plugged into the Hurricanes roster. He led the team in hits last season and scored a career best 26 goals along with 58 points, which was third highest on the team. Night after night, he brought the intensity the team needed.
After the recent signings of Cole and LaRose, the Hurricanes committed payroll for next year currently stands at 46.2 million. The team budget was set at 50 million, so that does not leave much room for the Finn and a possible defenseman to be named later. Ruutu earned 2.25 million last year and is unquestionably due a raise. But how much?
It's believed that the team would love to re-sign the winger to a three year contract, probably in the range of 2.5 in year one, 3 in year two, and 3.5 in year three. Would that be enough money to get the job done? Ruutu will be an unrestricted free agent next year if he just signs a one year deal, and he could test the waters to see how deep into their pockets some other teams out there might go.
Since Tuomo is restricted right now, a deal will get done here sooner or later. But for how long of a term?
Unlike Dany Heatley in Ottawa, Ruutu has stated several times that he loves it here in Carolina. He has countrymen here to relate to in Joni Pitkanen and Jussi Jokinen. He has never ducked out of an interview and is extremely popular with the media. It's only a matter of time before a deal is completed, but the devil is in the details. Stay tuned.