There is still no news on whether or not there will be an NHL season this year, but if there is, the Hurricanes will have to go most of it without winger Tuomo Ruutu, who recently underwent hip surgery and will be out indefinitely. Craig Custance of ESPN was one of the first to break this story and according to him, Ruutu will not return until at least early May, which means that he will not be playing a game for the Hurricanes this year unless they make the playoffs. Ruutu is always one of the Hurricanes most physical players and battled an upper-body injury for a good chunk of last season, so the news isn’t terribly surprising but that doesn’t make it any better for the Hurricanes who now have yet another void to fill in their top-six.
With the additions of Alexander Semin and Jordan Staal, the Hurricanes appeared to have one of the stronger forwards corps’ in the league but they are now going to have to replace a key member of their top-six in a short amount of time. Ruutu wasn’t outstanding last year, but he was one of their better offensive options and will not be easy to replace. Ruutu’s absence opens up a spot in the top-six and if you can take anything positive away from this, it’s that it will give one of the Hurricanes many younger forwards a shot at the top-six right off the bat.
With Alex Semin now in the mix, Jiri Tlusty was likely going to be used in a third line spot by default while others such as Zach Boychuk, Zac Dalpe and Drayson Bowman would basically be battling for roster spots. Adding to that, the highest on the depth chart they would get is maybe the third line on a fully healthy team so Ruutu’s injury could give one of these players a shot at top-nine minutes and make an impact. All three have been exceptional and I can’t imagine that they won’t see time with the Canes once the season starts. The bad news is that none of them will likely produce at Ruutu’s level, but they aren’t horrible options for the time being, especially since Ruutu hasn’t been a tough minute player for the last couple of seasons.
This injury came at a very bad time because this is the first season of Ruutu’s $19 mil. contract and the Hurricanes will be paying $4 mil. for no production if he is out for the entire season. Ruutu has been a fairly durable player throughout his career but he will be 30 next year and considering the physical game he plays, it’s possible that his body may suffer more wear and tear down the line. It doesn’t help that he’ll be playing with a surgically repaired hip, either. As far as Ruutu’s future goes, this might worry some fans but for now, the most we can do is wish him the best of luck with his recovery and hope he returns to the ice as soon as possible.