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Numbers Game: Oilers Turn To Cole Power

Scott Cullen
7/1/2008 5:37:46 PM
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After acquiring Lubomir Visnovsky, it was only a matter of time before the Edmonton Oilers parted ways with Joni Pitkanen.

Numbers Game looks at the follow-up trade that netted the Oilers a power forward in return.

The Oilers Get: LW Erik Cole.

A solid power forward with good speed, Cole takes the puck to the net aggressively when he's at his best, making him a nice fit in Edmonton, where he'll complement shiftier teammates.

While the 29-year-old isn't an elite finisher, Cole has buried the puck 81 times in the last three regular seasons and last season's 22 goals would still put him second to Dustin Penner's team-leading 23 on the Oilers.

Heading into the final year of his contract, at $4-million, Cole will be motivated to produce for his upcoming unrestricted free agency.

Having acquired the likes of Sergei Samsonov, Patrick Eaves and Tuomo Ruutu last season, the Hurricanes should have enough depth on the wings to survive the loss of Cole.

The Hurricanes Get: D Joni Pitkanen.

Pitkanen, 24, has loads of potential, as one might expect from the guy drafted fourth overall in 2002.  Coming out of the lockout, Pitkanen had his finest season, scoring 46 points with a plus-22 in 58 games, but his game has gone downhill since and last year's 26 points and minus-5 rating in 63 games wasn't particularly inspiring.

That isn't to say that Pitkanen doesn't have value.  He's young, mobile, has puck skills and good size, so there's plenty to like about his potential.  It may just be a matter of getting him in the right situation, not unlike the situation that the Hurricanes found with Joe Corvo when they acquired him from Ottawa last season.

In any case, given Carolina's lack of quality puckhandling defencemen, it's a worthwhile risk to take a shot with Pitkanen, who is a restricted free agent.

What provides additional value, and makes the deal more palatable from Carolina's perspective, is that they have more control over Pitkanen's financial status (read: for a longer term) than they would with Cole.
 
Scott Cullen can be reached at scullen@tsn.ca

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