Kicking to win

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

Rob Pikula is now the fifth piece in an intriguing yet complex Edmonton Eskimo puzzle.

In a major search to replace retired kicker/punter Sean Fleming, the Green and Gold now have five possible replacements under contract.

The Eskimos traded a third-round selection (18th overall) in this year's CFL Canadian draft to the B.C. Lions yesterday for Pikula and a different third-round choice (23rd overall).

"If we want to go into camp with an option of having our kicking game be Canadian, we need someone who is capable of punting because Warren Kean is not an accomplished punter yet," said Edmonton head coach Danny Maciocia.

And with that comment yesterday, Maciocia revealed for the first time that Kean - a first-round choice in last year's draft - will not be asked to punt in training camp this spring.

Kean was drafted second overall last year with the hope he could replace Fleming - who handled all three kicking aspects (punting, field goals and kickoffs) for several years before retiring last fall.

While that could still materialize down the road, it won't happen this year.

So, Maciocia is trying to give himself as many options heading into training camp as possible.

One option is keeping Kean and Pikula - both Canadians - on the roster in the regular season. Kean would handle field goals and kickoffs while Pikula would punt.

That option certainly comes with risks. Kean has only appeared in one CFL game in his one-year career - going three-for-four on field goal attempts in Hamilton in the final 2007 tilt.

Pikula has only played in 18 CFL games over two years between B.C. and Winnipeg and has a 42.1-yard punting average.

But in 94 punts last year for the Bombers, Pikula had the worst punting average in the league with a 41.7-yard average.

Another option at training camp could involve the club choosing to go with one player to handle all three kicking duties.

With just a 42-man roster, that gives a club the luxury of dressing a special-teams tackling demon.

But Pikula has been rather shaky while handling field goals as a professional. The 27-year-old only has a 69.5 field-goal success percentage.

As for the other three punters/kickers under contract, that is where it gets really complex.

Import Hayden Epstein - who has experience handling every kicking chore - is currently on the roster.

While the Esks have two other prospects under contract, names aren't being released.

"Preferably three (punters/kickers will be at camp) and maybe four," said Maciocia.

So, at least one or maybe two candidates will be cut before camp opens on May 31.

But all of the off-season moves aren't bothering Kean, who is training in Montreal.

"I am more than happy to go down that road," said Kean when informed that Maciocia just wants him to concentrate on field goals and kickoffs this year.

"I just want to do whatever I can do to help the team win."

Kean hasn't punted in a real game in over two years.

SHORT YARDAGE: The Eskimos still have the second overall pick in a deep CFL draft. But Maciocia is receiving trade offers for the coveted selection spot.

"(A trade offer) is going to have to knock my socks off in order to get (the pick)," said the coach and director of football operations.

FINISH LINES: Expendable in B.C. because Paul McCallum is the established starter, Pikula has now been traded twice this off-season ... The Eskimos are not interested in Calgary Stampeder cast-offs Brian Clark and Scott Coe.


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