The Ottawa Senators continue to stockpile potential talent for the future.
And they might not be done yet.
Senators general manager Bryan Murray announced tonight he's dealt veteran left-winger Jarkko Ruutu to the Anaheim Ducks for a sixth-round draft choice in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. It's a pick the Ducks previously obtained from the Phoenix Coyotes.
Ruutu is the third veteran forward to be moved by the Senators in the last week, joining Mike Fisher (to the Nashville Predators) and Chris Kelly (to the Boston Bruins). Along the way, Murray has obtained first, second and sixth-round selections in the 2011 draft to be held in June in St. Paul, Minn. All are possible building blocks for the future.
"The direction the Senators are going is young," the 35-year-old Ruutu told reporters in Anaheim on a conference call. "They have to make changes and stock up on draft picks."
That being said, Murray admits the process he is currently undertaking is anything but easy for him or the rest of the team. With Ruutu gone, Francis Lessard is being called up from the Binghamton Senators. Ottawa will dress seven players from their American Hockey League farm team against the Boston Bruins on Friday night at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., TSN, Team 1200).
"It's difficult," Murray said on a conference call. "Every time you trade a veteran guys you had expectations (from), it's somewhat hard to do. I'm sure it's a little draining on the rest of the players. In turn, because of the way we've played and because of the standings (the Senators are 15th in the Eastern Conference), some things are the right things to do.
"No. 1, it opens the door for a player that's been playing in the minors to get a chance to come up over the balance of the schedule. And it opens a door, going forward — not only from a financial point of view — but in a recruitment point of view over the summer in telling potential (free agent) candidates that hey, there's room on this roster, we're going to try to be competitive very quickly and maybe this is not a bad place to come and try to play."
Ruutu, who signed with the Senators as a free agent in July 2008, has an expiring contract this summer. While he'll get to play for a Western Conference contender in Anaheim — the Ducks roster includes fellow Finns Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu, along with ex-Senators teammate Andy Sutton — Ruutu said he'll miss the hockey environment in Ottawa.
"I liked playing in a Canadian city, where people are really passionate," he said. "That is always the No. 1 thing that comes to my mind about Canada. Here it’s all about hockey. People talk about it and stop you in the streets to talk about hockey."
With the NHL trade deadline now 11 days away, Murray said he "suspects there will be a couple more (deals), at least" by the Senators. In the meantime, he's hopeful the remaining veterans can help the team remain competitive for the rest of this season.
"We know we're not going to make the playoffs and we know it's a showcase for a lot of the younger guys that are now getting a callup," he said. "But I'm expecting the veteran guys to play hard and show the way for these people so they get a chance to step forward with their best foot. And that's all we can ask at this point in time."