To say this was an important season for Tuomo Ruutu would be an understatement. Entering the final year of his contract and having struggled to find the back of the net in his previous one and a half seasons in New Jersey, he was going to need to have a bounce back season if he wanted to have any chance of returning to the Devils beyond 2015-16.
Unfortunately, his season got off to a rough start. He suffered a fractured right foot in the first weeks of the year and missed almost two months of action. When he returned in December, he was never able to crack a regular spot in the lineup. On the season, Ruutu played in 33 games and managed to record only one point, which came in the regular season finale against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Even when he was in the lineup, he never saw much ice time. On the season, he averaged just 11:30 TOI, which was actually up from his average in 2014-15 (10:52 TOI). Offensively, Ruutu generated close to nothing, as indicated by his point totals. In 33 games, he managed to generate just 34 shots on goal. He was also a 46.8% possession player granted it was in limited ice time. For a team that struggled to score, specifically at even-strength, Ruutu did not do anything to help in that regard.
If there are any upsides to bringing back Ruutu, they’re difficult to find. In his time in New Jersey, he managed 22 points in 129 games, which is an average of just 0.17 points a game. The Devils were the worst scoring team at even-strength this season. Even worse than the Toronto Maple Leafs, who won this past weekend’s draft lottery. Bringing a back a player who averaged 0.17 points a game during his time in New Jersey seems to go against what Ray Shero is trying to do going forward. He did average 1.9 hits a game, but it’s a moot point when you’re struggling to contribute offensively.
Ruutu’s best days are behind him and with the Devils looking to add depth in their bottom six, it’s highly unlikely they bring a player that managed one point while paying him $5 million dollars this past season. With the Devils looking to get younger, bringing back Ruutu just goes against how Ray Shero is trying to build this team going forward. The Devils also have players like Pavel Zacha, Miles Wood, and Blake Pietila who will be competing for spots on next year’s roster and bringing back Ruutu would take one of those spots away from one of their younger players.
I think we can just about guarantee that Tuomo Ruutu’s days with the Devils are over. After trading Andrei Loktionov and a conditional third-round pick in 2014, Ruutu failed to produce in his time in New Jersey. He didn’t produce offensively nor does he play on any of the Devils special teams units. And with the Devils still struggling to find the back of the net, bringing back a player who failed to score one goal this season seems to defy logic. It also doesn’t help that Ruutu also was brought in by the previous regime. With Shero looking to bring in his own players as he continues to build this team, it makes it all the more likely that Ruutu will be playing elsewhere in 2016-17.