Pending UFA. $1.3M salary and cap hit for 2010-11.
Jarkko Ruutu can be reliably described as an agitator whose role is to draw penalties while not being a defensive liability, but during his time in Ottawa he's expanded the scope of his responsibilities. He's been consistently used on the penalty kill, and last season saw him post a career high in goals with 12. Like Chris Neil, he represents a depth utility player with some (relative) offensive upside and two-way play, which makes him something of a rarity among agitators--though not quite in a nefarious league with the evil genius Averys of the world. Ruutu is the kind of depth player many teams may want for long playoff runs, when the tension is high and his needling skills are best put to use. He's also a very affordable pending UFA; teams wouldn't be on the hook for much more than $300,000, and can sit him during the stretch and let him walk after the playoffs if he doesn't gel. The risk of acquiring him is minimal.
Like most Senators this season, he's having an abysmal year. He's on pace for about four goals, has been more likely to take a penalty than draw one, and has been a healthy scratch of late. He's been largely ineffective in almost all of his agitating. He also brings a limited skill set--at best, he's a purely complementary player, incapable of being a game changer, and he won't be counted on for big minutes. He might get under the skin of inexperienced or young teams, but it's hard to imagine him denting a team like the Philadelphia Flyers.
You be the judge: pest supreme, or "joke, a ****in' joke, he's a joke"?
Minimal to moderate. Ruutu's salary and cap hit are so affordable that he may be the only option for teams who are right up against the cap and/or have no cash flow, but feel that they need to add depth. At the very least, he's an experienced, warm body who can fill in during the playoff grind. He's the definition of a low-risk trade deadline acquisition for most teams, which could spark some minor competition.
High. He probably won't be brought back to the Senators, and there will be some interest in a low-cost depth player, so Bryan Murray will want to get something for him. It may not be much, but there's literally no advantage to keeping him on the roster. He's also one of the few players on the Senators with an expiring contract and without a No Trade Clause.
A young team, like the Atlanta Thrashers or Colorado Avalanche; a former team, like the Pittsburgh Penguins or Vancouver Canucks; a poor team, like the Nashville Predators, Dallas Stars, or Phoenix Coyotes; or an underachieving team that needs more 'grit,' like the San Jose Sharks, are all possible destinations. Look for teams who miss out on the few really attractive deadline options to come calling.
Scott Walker isn't exactly comparable--Walker is older, and has more of a history as an offensive player, but he's a gritty, depth acquisition who showed his effectiveness in the playoffs for the Carolina Hurricanes and was traded to the Washington Capitals at the deadline last year for a seventh-round pick. Another comparable may be Jody Shelley--more of a traditional enforcer, really--who was added by the New York Rangers last season for a sixth-round pick. Ruutu may be more valuable than either, but probably not by much.
The days of the big ticket acquisition are behind us. GMs are recognizing the value of draft picks in a cap system. Trade deadline TV shows have become wastelands of dead air and rumour-mongering that rarely amount to much. This stagnant environment both plays to Ottawa's advantage, as Ruutu is affordable--I would put the ceiling for his value at a third-round pick--and disadvantage, as there are far fewer trading partners out there than there once were. With little chance at a bidding war, Ruutu won't garner much more than a low pick and cap space.