Impending free agency does some funny things.
It makes you an object of desire around the NHL Trade Deadline, as pundits pump your tires until they're Gravedigger-sized in a sparse field of talent. It also increases your asking price before you actually reach freedom, as your current employer pays what the market will likely be in the summer, or enough to convince you not to test it.
With that, the coveted Tuomo Ruutu signed a 4-year, $19 million extension with the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday, taking him off the market for Monday's deadline day.
According to GM Jim Rutherford, via Chip Alexander of the News & Observer, the deal has a no-trade clause for the first three seasons.
The $4.75 million cap hit is an increase on his $3.8 million hit this season. He remains the second-highest paid forward on the roster behind Eric Staal, at least until Jeff Skinner's off his rookie contract in 2014.
The deal is no surprise. After Ruutu had been discussed as trade bait for the also-ran Hurricanes, the player and his team decided they wanted to extend their relationship.
Why? As Rutherford said earlier this month: "Tuomo is a player we really like, and he said he likes being with the team." As he said today: "He's an important player to our team. He's the type of player that, long term, would be hard to replace."
That type of player is one that can put the puck in the net, which Ruutu did 26 times four years ago. This contract tells you they see 20/60 potential from him.
It also tells you the same thing that the Tim Gleason contract did: Rutherford likes this group, and believes they can contend with Kirk Muller behind the bench for a full season. Why else break his trend of never signing players during the season to retain two pending UFAs before the deadline?
The money's impressive -- his contract is richer than the one signed by Erik Cole with Montreal last season -- and four years seem long given three of them allow him veto power over trades. But Rutherford didn't see a cheaper replacement, so why not bring back Ruutu?
You know who doesn't mind this deal? Ales Hemsky. Because cha-ching …