Ruutu: 'I have to be annoying'

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

Jarkko Ruutu is a pest.

And he's the first to admit it.

The Senators' new left winger, who held a conference call with reporters yesterday after agreeing to a three-year, $3.9-million (all terms US) contract late Wednesday, promised he's going to be a pain in the butt to play against.

It was Ruutu, you may remember, who scored the winning goal for the Penguins in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series against the Senators that sent Ottawa packing for the summer in a four-game sweep.

"I have to do my role. I have to play the way I've always played," Ruutu said from his home in Finland. "Ottawa is a really good team. I've got to play my role. I've got to play well defensively and be really good physically. I've got to be able to take the opponent's top guys off their game. There's no secret how I play."

The Penguins wanted to keep Ruutu, but they weren't willing to tack on a third year to a deal.

"The third year was part of the reason I chose Ottawa, but it's not the only reason -- I was offered a third year by other teams," said Ruutu. "Sometimes you have to make choices and they're tough, but I chose to go to another team and I'm pleased."

The Senators needed a player like Ruutu, but who wasn't going to throw their payroll out of whack. GM Bryan Murray considered signing ex-Ranger Sean Avery and ex-Leaf Darcy Tucker, but neither fit the club's pay scale.

Ruutu, meanwhile, could find himself on a line with centre Chris Kelly and Antoine Vermette -- if Vermette is retained.

"I want to prove myself night after night. The more I do, the more playing time I will get," said Ruutu, who had six goals and 10 assists in 71 games while racking up 138 penalty minutes last season.

Ruutu said he tries to avoid taking dumb penalties, but he can't help himself on occasion.

KNOWS ROLE

"At times, I'll take unnecessary penalties that I probably should avoid, but sometimes I do. That's part of my game," said Ruutu. "When it's a crucial time, like the playoffs, I know where to draw the line. It's something you feel. If you play five minutes a game, that's tough to do. But if you play 10-12 minutes, you get a feel on how to handle things.

"It's part of my role. I have to be aggressive and annoying. At the same time, like I said, I'll take stupid penalties."

Ruutu, who began his career with the Canucks, said he's looking forward to returning to play in Canada. He did consult his brother Mikko Ruutu, a European scout for the Senators and a former draft pick of the club in 1999, before accepting Ottawa's offer.

"It's a very competitive team," said Ruutu. "They went to the final two years ago and there's a chance there to win. I like Canada. I like the way hockey is being handled there and I like how big it is. Obviously, the contract was one of the reasons. I had two or three good choices, but I felt that Ottawa fit my needs the best."

Ruutu's first regular-season games for the Senators will be against the Penguins in Stockholm, which means there will be familiar faces like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin across the ice from him.

"I'm playing against them, so there's no free skating. I want to be tough on them. The way I've played with them for two years," said Ruutu.

OFF THE GLASS

There has been no progress made in discussions between the Senators and restricted free-agent D Andrej Meszaros. It's believed he and fellow RFA Vermette could get Group II offer sheets. It's believed Meszaros is seeking $4 million a season and that's why talks have stalled with Ottawa. As for Vermette, he has to decide by tomorrow if he's going to file for arbitration. He is one year away from becoming an unrestricted free agent.


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