Hawks Insider: Ruutu Status Report
Got a burning question about the Blackhawks? Submit it to Hawks Insider and it may be answered in an upcoming edition.
What is the current contract status of Tuomo Ruutu? Will he be signed to a multi-year deal? --Keith Baldwin, Naperville, IL
Keith, Ruutu remains the lone restricted free agent the Blackhawks have yet to re-sign. Negotiations with Ruutu and his agent are ongoing. Dale Tallon would love to see Ruutu on the Hawks' revamped top line with Martin Havlat and Michal Handzus, and he is hopeful that a deal -- whether a one-year that leads to a longer deal, or a multi-year -- will get worked out before the start of training camp.
First of all, why would the team pick up another goaltender when they already have five on the team? Second, Since JP Dumont has been given his walking papers from Buffalo, would Dale and the rest of management consider bringing him back home? -- Michael Schmidt, Greensburg, PA
Will there be any room for the Hawks to go and sign JP Dumont? It would be nice to put a 20 goal scorer in the lineup. --Thomas Kochevar, Buffalo Grove, IL
Good questions, guys. Let's start with Michael's goaltending question, referring to the recent signing of former Pens netminder Sebastien Caron. The Blackhawks don't really have five goalies already. Nikolai Khabibulin and Patrick Lalime are your Hawk goalies; Corey Crawford and Mike Brodeur were slated for Norfolk; Adam Munro has elected to play in Europe; and Joe Fallon and Joe Palmer are still in college. Caron was signed because it doesn't look like Brodeur will be ready to start the season due to back problems -- which is very unfortunate because he is a great young kid and a promising young goalie. He arrived at Prospects Camp feeling 100% healthy after missing the entire second half of the ECHL season -- he was an All-Star in the first half, starting 24 straight games -- and for the first two days, Brodeur was the best goalie in camp. Then his back started giving him trouble again and he was shut down. When I have more news about the status of his injury, I'll report it. Hopefully he'll come back strong and play meaningful minutes for the Admirals this year.
As for the one-time Hawk Dumont, there's no doubt that he would look good wearing the red and white again. But there are two factors that make this scenario unlikely. First, Dumont is a top-six winger, and while you can never have too many top line guys, the Blackhawks believe that two of these four wingers -- Radim Vrbata, Rene Bourque, Tony Salmelainen and Bryan Smolinski can fit the bill on the 2nd line. Vrbata was on pace for around 25 goals last season after coming over from Carolina and will be counted on to put up Dumont-type numbers or better this year.
More significant, however, is the salary cap issue. The Blackhawks' cap number -- including buyouts and incentives -- is already around $40 million with the cap at $44 million. That's not much room to work with when you still have to sign Ruutu. Furthermore, Dale Tallon has always been clear about the need for some cap flexibility. What if one of the Blackhawks' top players goes down with a serious injury? If he's lost for the year, then you have some cap relief and can go out and acquire a comparable replacement. But if he is expected to return to the lineup, and you're already maxed out, you'll be stuck. It's not practical for any team to begin the season right up against the cap, and signing Dumont would likely put the Blackhawks in that position.