While the Carolina Hurricanes decision to trade Tuomo Ruutu yesterday was largely to void the team’s responsibility of paying the Finnish forward’s big salary, the Canes received a young player with some decent skill that could be part of the future in Andrei Loktionov.
Loktionov is starting out on the fourth line, but could move up and slot in as the center on the third line, which could mean the end for Riley Nash.
Throughout the season, Nash has been the player most frequently used in that spot, except for a few games when Manny Malhotra played there. And while the 24-year-old is good in his own end, he hasn’t provided the offense that the Canes need.
Loktionov should be able to do that and with a skilled center playing with Jeff Skinner, that line should be fun to watch.
With Loktionov on the third line and Manny Malhotra on the fourth, Nash will either be a healthy scratch for a large portion of the rest of the season, or have to switch to a wing position to play.
But things aren’t determined for next season. Loktionov is a restricted free agent at the end of the year and the Hurricanes will use the next 20 games to decide if they want to re-sign him, but it seems the team has tried to set the Russian up for success by already saying he’ll be used on the powerplay.
Malhotra is an unrestricted free agent and could have some more years left in him at 33-years-old, while Nash is signed through next season at a cheap $575,000 contract.
Nash was part of trade rumors this season, so the Canes aren’t necessarily inclined to keep him, but with that cheap contract he could be an option if Loktionov is the third-line center next season and Malhotra signs elsewhere.
So while Loktionov may take Nash’s spot on the third line, it will actually be Manny Malhotra that Nash will be competing with for a spot on the roster next season.