Pitkanen, Oilers come to terms

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 8:36 AM ET

The Philadelphia Flyers wanted to take Joni Pitkanen to arbitration - the Edmonton Oilers didn't.

Getting in a war of words with one of their newest acquisitions - pointing out his faults in front of an arbiter in order to drive down his price tag - is hardly the best way to begin a relationship.

And Pitkanen wasn't entirely thrilled with the idea, either.

So the two sides sat down and hammered out a deal themselves, a one-year pact that will pay the young defenceman $2.4 million US.

"We're very pleased to announce this signing as Joni is a player who will strengthen our hockey club in many different ways," said GM Kevin Lowe.

"He's proven himself as one of the league's top defencemen and we'll look for him to continue his solid play this season."

Pitkanen's was a club-filed arbitration, a new wrinkle in the new CBA, that he carried over with him from Philly in the Pitkanen-Geoff Sanderson trade for Jason Smith and Joffrey Lupul.

Edmonton doesn't have a long history of going to arbitration; they usually settle at the last minute.

They've gone as far as flying to Toronto with Todd Marchant and Ryan Smyth before striking an 11th hour deals in the hallway outside the hearing office.

The $2.4 million tab makes Pitkanen the seventh-highest paid player on the team, behind Sheldon Souray ($6.5 million, including a signing bonus); Dwayne Roloson ($4 million); Ales Hemsky ($3.6 million); Shawn Horcoff ($3.6 million); Steve Staios ($2.9 million) and Fernando Pisani ($2.5 million). It also leaves Edmonton with a payroll of $42.5 million, well below the $50.3 million salary cap and with room for another move under a self-imposed team budget of $45 million.

It's also one of the last pieces of bookkeeping on the agenda this summer. Restricted free agents Mathieu Roy, Jeff Deslauriers and Kyle Brodziak are the only players who remain unsigned.

Alexei Mikhnov, who's back in Russia, is also an RFA, but he has to decide if he even wants to came back to North America before they decide what it will cost.


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