Pitkanan out, Redden in?

BOB STAUFFER

, Last Updated: 7:34 AM ET

One of the most interesting storylines this off-season with the Edmonton Oilers is what is going to happen with the talented but enigmatic Joni Pitkanen.

During the week on an appearance on Total Sports on the Team 1260, Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe agreed with a suggestion that the most likely scenario for the Pitkanen, a restricted free agent, was another one-year contract.

Rumours last fall had Pitkanen's agent Larry Kelly asking for about $4.5M to $5M a year for a long term deal, and there is no way the Oilers can do that given that they don't know what they have yet in the Finnish defender.

Based on potential the Oilers likely got the best player in the Pitkanen deal with the Philadelphia Flyers during the 2007 off-season.

But it goes without saying that Joffrey Lupul outperformed Pitkanen this season, racking up 20 goals and 46 points in 55 games, and adding another 10 points to date in the playoffs.

An argument has been made by some that Lupul was "not an Oiler," and was doomed to fail in Edmonton in coach Craig MacTavish's system.

But by the same logic, does a player who seems to be even higher maintenance, like Pitkanen, stand a better chance to succeed?

The Oilers are a lot about symbolic gestures like selling out and blocking shots with your face when your team is down by two goals in game. Pitkanen is a guy who has been known to leave practice early and drive home before the rookies are even off the ice. In that context is he the type of player you invest $5M a season on?

The Oilers are also very much MacTavish's team, with MacTavish excelling with hard-working players like Shawn Horcoff, Fernando Pisani and now Kyle Brodziak.

However, a strong argument can be made that under MacTavish's guidance some skill guys have floundered; such as the aforementioned Lupul or Petr Sykora. Both were afterthoughts in the final 30 games in Edmonton in 2006-07; but both have seemingly re-discovered their games with better teams than the Oilers this season.

I don't think there is a chance MacTavish will be patient enough to get the obstinate Pitkanen to reach his full potential.

Pitkanen excelled in Philadelphia with Ken Hitchcock, and then went off the rails when "Hitch" got fired during the 2006-07 season.

The positive experience Pitkanen had with Hitchcock; and the obvious connection between Lowe and his former assistant GM and current Columbus GM Scott Howson, makes you wonder if there will be discussions between the two organizations during this off-season.

Hitchcock and Howson also combined to help turn around the mercurial Nikolai Zherdev, and my guess is they would have confidence they could get Pitkanen going as well.

If the Oilers were to move Pitkanen and got a forward back, you wonder if there is still interest in Wade Redden.

Insiders out of Ottawa suggest that it is highly unlikely that Redden will be back in the nation's capital.

The Detroit Red Wings have proven the benefit of having four or five puck-moving defenceman.

Redden is a puck-moving defenceman. Lowe and MacTavish would know exactly what they would be getting in the Lloydminster native on a nightly basis, which is far more than could be said for Pitkanen.

Personally I would be far more inclined to invest five million a year in a three-year deal with Redden, than with Pitkanen.

- - -

With a Red Wings-Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup Final match-up inevitable, don't be surprised if the series is not as close as everyone seems to think.

Mike Babcock is going to school Michel Therrien on the technical side of things, and Detroit's puck possession game will expose the Penguins.

The Penguins will soon find out that it is a little different trying to force turnovers from Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart, than it was from Derian Hatcher and Jason Smith.


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