10/11 Salary: $4.5 million
11/12 Projected Salary: $4-5 million
Joni Pitkanen was once thought to be one of the bright young stars on defense, but he topped out in his second year in the league, with Philadelphia. With that said, he’s still a valuable player to have on the back end. Pitkanen is a long-shot to return to Carolina and will be sought-after by an abundance of clubs on July 1st.
Pitkanen logged over 25 minutes per game for the Hurricanes in 2010-11 and tallied 35 points in 72 games. One of the big knacks on him is health; he has never played a full 82-game schedule. Pitkanen also has the ability to disappear from time to time, which may make teams hesitate spending upwards of $4.5 million, maybe $5 million, on the Finland native.
Despite some uncertainties, every summer there are teams looking to boost their defense. Pitkanen is one of the best available come July 1st, especially if some others re-sign. At the age of 27 and in his prime, look for Pitkanen to get a long-term deal.
Five teams that make sense:
- Boston Bruins
The B’s will have cap space without many voids to fill. If they don’t re-sign Tomas Kaberle, would they target the more well-rounded Pitkanen?
- Columbus Blue Jackets
The need is there, but would the Jackets shell out the necessary money to sign Pitkanen?
- Detroit Red Wings
Pitkanen may be the best fit in Detroit of all the free agent defensemen.
- San Jose Sharks
Team Teal needs a minutes-eater to go alongside Dan Boyle. Is Pitkanen the answer?
- Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs have a hole in the top-four on the blue-line, along with some money to spend.
Current favorite: Detroit
Dark-horse destination: Boston
Current projection: Detroit Red Wings (5 years, $23.75 million)
(Ed. Note: Between now and June 30th, we'll be taking an in-depth look at 12 of the top available free agents.)