The Philadelphia Flyers announced that they have re-signed 6'3", 215-pound defenseman Joni Pitkanen to a new one-year contract, according to club General Manager Bob Clarke. Per club policy, financial terms were not disclosed.
"Joni Pitkanen is a player who made great strides in his development last season and we feel can one day be one of the top defensemen in the league," said Clarke in making the announcement. "His importance to the team is along the same lines as Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and R.J. Umberger and it is a priority for us to make sure that our younger players remain in the organization."
Pitkanen, 22, recorded 13 goals and 33 assists for 46 points and 78 penalty minutes in 58 regular season games for the Flyers last season. His 13 goals, 33 assists and 46 points were all new career highs for a single season. He won the Barry Ashbee Trophy as the Flyers' most outstanding defenseman and the Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy as the most improved player for the 2005-06 season. Pitkanen led the team in average time on ice (23:42), was tied for second on the team in assists (33) and was tied for third on the team in plus/minus (+22). He was first among Flyers defensemen in points (46 - tied for 19th among NHL defensemen) and was seventh among NHL defensemen in points per game (0.79).
In two seasons with the Flyers (2003-04 and 2005-06), Pitkanen has registered 21 goals and 52 assists for 73 points and 122 penalty minutes in 129 regular season games. During the 2004-05 season, Pitkanen played for the Flyers' American Hockey League affiliate, the Philadelphia Phantoms, recording 41 points (6G,35A) in 76 regular season games. He added seven points (3G,4A) in 21 playoff games as the Phantoms won the 2005 Calder Cup Championship. His 27 points (8G,19A) during the 2003-04 season was second among NHL rookie defensemen and he was named to the 2003-04 NHL All-Rookie Team.
A native of Oulu, Finland, Pitkanen was originally drafted by the Flyers in the first round (fourth overall) of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. Prior to being drafted by the Flyers, Pitkanen played three seasons for Karpat Oulu (Finland – 2000-01 through 2002-03).