Joni Pitkanen has taken a bit of a PR beating this summer, most recently from the coach of the Finnish national team, who blasted the Oilers defenceman on his way out of the World Championships.
Pitkanen showed up for the Worlds, all geared up to play, then packed his bags and left, citing a sore knee. Finn coach Doug Shedden blamed it on a lack of commitment, accusing Pitkanen of pulling out to protect his bargaining position in upcoming contract negotiations.
DIDN'T SEE EYE TO EYE
It's not hard to tell the two camps didn't see eye to eye.
"That's the thing with Joni, if you don't know how to read him and you don't know how to work with him, he can be a little bit stubborn," said Oilers' GM Kevin Lowe. "I don't know what they said to him. I know when he left he talked to some of us and said he was looking forward to (The Worlds), so I don't know what happened along the way."
A player with a bad knee and without a contract would be a fool to play in a tournament, so you can't blame Pitkanen for protecting his livelihood. As for his contract talks, they haven't started yet, but Pitkanen is already taking heat for an opening offer in the $5 to $6 million range.
Lowe, however, says it wasn't their opening offer, but, rather, a figure from a year ago, when they first acquired him from Philadelphia and were kicking around a long-term deal.
"That's what they were talking about last summer, when we first got him," said Lowe. "I haven't even talked to them yet (this summer). I'm going to give him a call in the next little while."
DOESN'T HAVE OPTIONS
Pitkanen is a restricted free agent, so he doesn't have a lot of options. His numbers aren't good enough to win him a big pile of dough in an arbitration hearing and an offer sheet from someone else seems unlikely.
"He said he wanted to come back, so the way I can see it happening is another one-year deal and maybe he settles in and has a good year and will be in a better position next year," said Lowe.