CHICAGO - The Carolina Hurricanes acquired forward Tuomo Ruutu from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for left wing Andrew Ladd on Tuesday in a swap of former first-round picks.
The deal, which came hours before the NHL's trading deadline, gives the injury-depleted Hurricanes some depth at centre and on the wings as they push toward a playoff berth.
"The biggest thing is, Ruutu is more of a two-positional player," Carolina assistant general manager Ron Francis said. "With all of our injuries right now, it gives us a little bit more flexibility in case we need to move bodies around in the lineup."
Carolina also added an immediate offensive punch by activating right wing Patrick Eaves from injured reserve. Acquired two weeks ago from Ottawa in a deal for forward Cory Stillman and defenceman Mike Commodore, Eaves missed his final six games with the Senators and his first seven with the Hurricanes with shoulder and neck ailments.
Eaves was expected to make his debut in Raleigh on Tuesday night against New Jersey. To make room, Carolina reassigned forward Jeff Hamilton to its AHL affiliate in Albany.
Ruutu and Ladd have similar salaries - Ruutu is making US$1.88 million this season, and Ladd is making $1.83 million - and both will be restricted free agents in the off-season, meaning they will return to their respective teams as long as the clubs match any offers they receive.
"They were looking for more of a versatile player, and we were looking for a left winger," Blackhawks general manager Dale Hallon said. "We like (Ladd's) grit, his skill, his age and his future."
The 25-year-old Ruutu has six goals and 15 assists in 60 games with Chicago and is in his fourth NHL season after he was picked ninth overall by the Blackhawks in 2001. Listed as a centre, he can play multiple positions on offence, which is why he was coveted by the Hurricanes.
"We certainly feel that he can step in and contribute in different areas, whether we want to use him at centre, whether we want to use him on the wing, whether it's second line, third line, whatever," Francis said. "He can contribute to our hockey club immediately."
The 22-year-old Ladd was taken fourth overall by the Hurricanes in 2004, and was a key member of their second line along with Sergei Samsonov. He is having the best season of his three-year NHL career, with nine goals and nine assists in 43 games and registering 10 points in his last 11.
"Any time you have to make a decision like this, it's never easy because you're always giving up a pretty good individual during the deal," Francis said. "But, given the circumstances we're in, with the injuries, we're looking for a player that's more versatile, that can play different positions for us. We felt this deal made sense for us for now and going for us."
Samsonov played in 23 games with Ruutu earlier this season in Chicago before he was waived by the Blackhawks and claimed by Carolina in January.
"He's just a hard worker who shows up every game and works hard," Samsonov said of Ruutu. "He's a tough guy to play against."