SUN Hockey Pool

Lowe did it right with Pitkanen

BOB STAUFFER

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

It is interesting to see that the Edmonton Oilers only came to terms on a one-year deal with recently acquired restricted free agent Joni Pitkanen.

Consider this a feeling-out process.

The offensively-gifted Pitkanen, who had put up 46- and 43-point campaigns in the last two seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers obviously has a big upside, but he also has baggage as illustrated by a poor minus-25 rating last season.

Instead of committing to a long-term deal the Oilers get to test drive the Finnish defenceman for a season and get a better handle on what type of player he is.

General Manager Kevin Lowe has all season now to sign Pitkanen to a longer deal, and if he can't come to terms with the defenceman and another team steps up to the plate and makes an RFA offer sheet for him next summer, the Oilers can simply match.

This patient approach by Lowe should make his harsher critics out there happy.

As the 2006-07 season wore on last year, more and more second-guessed Lowe's decision to sign Joffrey Lupul to a three-year deal at a $2.3-million cap hit. Lupul, like Pitkanen a year earlier was an RFA and a bit of an unknown.

One advantage that Pitkanen will have over Lupul is that he won't have the same scrutiny on him as Lupul did last season. The Sheldon Souray signing took care of that.

STOLL SITUATION DIFFERENT

Jarret Stoll is in a completely different spot than Pitkanen.

The Oilers know full well what they have with a guy who could be their future captain.

After going through some scary times, suffering two concussions in a very short time frame that ended his season after 51 games last year, from all reports it sounds as though Stoll is good to go for this season.

With one year left in his deal before becoming an RFA you have to figure that the Oilers will see how Stoll does health-wise for the first 20 or so games and then if all things are positive, move to get a long-term deal done.

Stoll is the perfect second-line centre, especially for this team.

It is realistic to expect him to put up 50-65 points a year in a full season, while being a key special teams contributor.

The only problem the Oilers have is they have two centers in Stoll and Shawn Horcoff who are both kind of the same guy and I don't think that either can take another step forward to be a true elite 90-point season first-line centre.

Eventually something has to give, because the Oilers will need to upgrade their top line which right now consists of Ales Hemsky on the right side, Horcoff at centre and an empty spot on the left side.

LINDROS FOOLS' GOLD?

A year ago a small percentage of fans thought the Big "E" might be a good addition for the Oilers as a top-six forward.

One year later forget about it! For every Cory Cross out there who over-achieved and made the most of what he had, there is a guy like Lindros that after a while you just want to kick in the junk.

I was once a huge believer in Lindros and thought he got a raw deal from the fans beginning with the whole Quebec Nordiques fiasco.

However, as evidenced by his passionless play throughout the 2006-07 season with the Dallas Stars, it is clear he has lost his will to play.

The fact that Lindros himself has admitted to looking to the future in a role off the ice says it all.

It is sad really because he should have dominated for a far longer stretch but he simply has been an ineffective player since the lockout.

The Oil do need to add a big man up front, but the Big "E" is fools' gold at this stage in his career.


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