The Carolina Hurricanes re-signing of defenseman Joni Pitkanen to a three-year, $13.5 million contract just two days before his eligibility for unrestricted free agency this past summer surprised those who felt he would be too expensive for the cost-conscious Hurricanes to retain.
Only four games into this season, however, Luke DeCock of the Raleigh News and Observer suggested Pitkanen is a luxury the Canes cannot afford.
DeCock wondered how long the Hurricanes could live with the 28-year-old defenseman, given they’re currently carrying nine defensemen and have an “increasingly evident need” for another top-six forward.
DeCock also wondered if Pitkanen would’ve been re-signed had management known it could’ve signed UFA defenseman Tomas Kaberle in July for the same money, or that young blueliner Justin Faulk would make the club.
Of course, it was impossible to foresee those situations unfolding over the course of the past three months.
What’s undeniable is that, while it’s still early in the season, the Hurricanes lack offensive depth up front, going 1-2-1 in their first four games and potting only nine goals.
Versatile sophomore center Jeff Skinner, left winger Jussi Jokinen and captain Eric Staal have accounted for four of those goals, while the offensive production from the remaining forwards has been lacking.
If that trend continues over the course of the season, the Hurricanes will find it difficult to reach the playoffs.
Pitkanen would certainly prove enticing to clubs that lack a skilled two-way defenseman and those with depth at forward would have what it takes to address the Hurricanes’ scoring depth.
The Edmonton Oilers have a trading history with the Hurricanes and are loaded with promising young forwards. They will be in the market for a veteran puck-moving blueliner if Tom Gilbert and Cam Barker can’t fill the void left by Ryan Whitney’s injury absence.
SHAKE-UP COMING IN COLUMBUS?
Another team that could make use of a defenseman such as Pitkanen is the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Despite the additions of center Jeff Carter and defenseman James Wisniewski this past summer, the Jackets have stumbled out of the gate with an 0-3-1 record in their first four games.
Part of the reason for that struggle is Wisniewski is in the midst of an eight-game suspension for a hit to the head of Cal Clutterbuck during the pre-season, but there appears to be more going on with the Jackets than just his absence.
Their power play went a dreadful 0-for-20 in those four games. Left winger R.J. Umberger, center Antoine Vermette and right winger Derick Brassard have failed to tally any points so far, while goalie Steve Mason’s performance (0-3-1, 3.24 GAA, .892 SP) remains a cause for concern.
During the Jackets recent game at home against the Colorado Avalanche, 27 scouts were in attendance, fuelling speculation Jackets management was already looking to shake things up.
Perhaps the Jackets fortunes will reverse when Wisniewski rejoins the lineup, but if not, more changes will be in store.
TURRIS HOPING FOR TRADE?
Is Kyle Turris’ holdout with the Phoenix Coyotes a ploy to force a trade?
CBC’s Elliotte Friedman recently reported he spoke to “a few people” and the common opinion is the 22-year-old center wants a trade. One GM told Friedman the feeling is Turris, who is demanding between $3-4 million per season from the Coyotes, would sign a more reasonable contract with another team.
Last weekend on Hockey Night in Canada, Friedman reported Coyotes GM Don Maloney had no intention of softening his no-trade stance with Turris.
If Turris’ real intent is to force a trade, he should simply ask for it rather than hide his intention behind outrageous salary demands. That tactic doesn’t sit well with most GMs.
To date, however, there’s been nothing but silence from the center and his agent.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla’s Korner.