Tuomo Ruutu’s injury changes everything

Carolina Hurricanes forward Tuomo Ruutu, one of the most highly coveted players leading up to the 2012 NHL trade deadline, will miss the next three weeks with an upper-body injury, creating a potential nightmare for his current team. The former first round pick leads the Canes with 17 goals and is tied for second in points with 30. He was hurt in the first period of Monday’s 5-3 win in Montreal.

Ruutu, 28, will not return to action until after the February 27 deadline passes, which will undoubtedly put a major dent in his trade value. Prior to injuring himself, the Finnish forward was expected to be dealt for a large ransom to the highest bidder—assuming he chose not to re-sign with the Canes. When healthy, he could have warranted a return of a first round pick, a top prospect or even both.

Now, there’s no telling how far his stock will drop.

When asked to comment, GM Jim Rutherford reitirated his previous desire to re-sign Ruutu, making no mention of a potential trade.

“It will have no impact,” Rutherford said of the injury. “The fact that we’d like him to stay and like to re-sign him has not changed in any way.”

It’s difficult to tell if Rutherford actually believes he can keep Ruutu in Carolina or if he is simply putting on a face for the media to keep other teams on their toes. Regardless, it’s going to be a nerve-wracking situation for the GM and Hurricanes fans everywhere until it’s finally resolved.

If Ruutu doesn’t want to continue his career with the Hurricanes, it could spell disaster for Carolina. He’s now a liability, and no team in their right mind will deal away valuable players or draft picks for a rental that has a giant red flag attached to him.

There is a chance, however, that this could play out in Carolina’s favor. If no team offers Jim Rutherford a trade he’s satisfied with, there remains a chance that he can hold onto Ruutu, allow him to finish the year in Raleigh, and possibly persuade him to sign an extension with the Canes.

Unfortunately, that scenario remains highly unlikely.

What is far more probable is that Ruutu recovers, remains in Carolina for the rest of ’11-’12 and heads elsewhere during the summer.

Ruutu’s injury was the cherry on top of one of the most miserable, heart-wrenching road trips the Hurricanes could have imagined. First they lost due to one of the worst calls in NHL history, then in the final second of overtime, then lost their top goal-scorer. You can’t make this stuff up.

The Hurricanes will return to action sans Ruutu on Friday when they take on the San Jose Sharks in Raleigh.