July 2, 2008
Pitkanen finally movedBlueliner dealt to Carolina
By ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media
It was about 7 p.m. in Finland when Joni Pitkanen's phone rang.
"I'll call you back in about half an hour," he told an Edmonton reporter. "I'm playing ball hockey right now."
It sounded like a classic blow-off: clear the line of an annoying writer and don't pick it up when he calls back. After all, what player wants to talk about a team giving up on him exactly one calendar year after they got him?
Twenty minutes later, the reporter's phone rang.
"Hello, it's Joni calling. Sorry about that, we were having a game."
Who says Pitkanen isn't passionate about hockey? If only he was that eager to get back in the game when he played in Edmonton, he might still be here. Instead, the enigmatic 24-year-old defenceman is a Carolina Hurricane, dealt there yesterday in a swap for winger Erik Cole.
"It's always tough to get traded, but I wasn't very surprised," said Pitkanen, joining his third team in as many seasons. "It's kind of too bad - the Oilers have a very good young team there and played very good at the end of the season. They were nice guys, and very nice people in Edmonton - very friendly. I liked it there, it was pretty good."
So was Pitkanen. Unfortunately, pretty good wasn't good enough for a team that gave up Jason Smith and Joffrey Lupul on July 1, 2007, to get him. The Oilers had high hopes for the smooth skating puck mover from Finland, but he never did manage to reach his top end here. After posting 46 and 43 points in his previous two seasons in Philadelphia, his total dropped to 26 as an Oiler.
He was still a valuable asset, logging more minutes per game (24:07) than anyone else on the team, but he couldn't stay healthy long enough to develop any sort of rhythm. Limited to 63 games by nagging injuries and an apparent unwillingness to play through them, Pitkanen became the subject of trade rumours.
"For the first 10 or 15 games with a new team, I was trying to find my game," he said.
"Then I hurt my knee. But after that, I think, was good. The last 20 games or so was very good. The feeling I left with after the season was very good. But later on in the summer I was thinking I might be gone. When my agent and the Oilers were talking about the contract, I knew I might get traded."
He survived the NHL draft, at which time GM Kevin Lowe said that if he were a betting man he'd wager Pitkanen would be in training camp. But the D-man began preparing himself for a new location when Edmonton traded Matt Greene and Jarret Stoll for Lubomir Visnovsky Sunday.
"When I heard the Oilers traded for Visnovsky, I was expecting this," he said. "I was pretty sure I was going."
He's thrilled to be a Cane.
"I'm very happy about that," he said. "I said that if the Oilers were going to trade me, I wished they would trade me to Carolina because I like the way that they play and my very good friend Tuomo Ruutu is there. I'm excited about this."