RALEIGH, NC—Jim Rutherford, President and General Manager of the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes, announced today that the team has signed restricted free-agent defenseman Joni Pitkanen (YOH-nee PIHT-ka-nuhn) to a three-year contract. The deal will pay Pitkanen $3.5 million in 2008-09, $4 million in 2009-10 and $4.5 million in 2010-11. The Hurricanes acquired Pitkanen on Tuesday from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for forward Erik Cole.
Pitkanen, 24, scored eight goals and earned 18 assists (26 points) in 63 games in 2007-08 to rank second among Edmonton defensemen in scoring. The Oulu, Finland, native averaged 24:07 in ice time per game last season, ranking him second among Oilers skaters, and 22nd among all NHL defensemen. Pitkanen (6’3”, 210 lbs.) has played in 269 career NHL regular-season games with Philadelphia and Edmonton, scoring 33 goals and earning 109 assists (142 points), with 12 goals and 52 assists (64 points) coming on the power play. The Flyers selected Pitkanen in the first round, fourth overall, in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.
Pitkanen has represented Finland in numerous international competitions. He helped his country claim the bronze medal in 2002 and 2003 at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championships, and won the Directorate Award as the tournament’s best defenseman in 2003. He was a reserve for Team Finland as it claimed the silver medal at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, and was named to Finland’s Olympic team in 2006, but withdrew due to injury. Pitkanen was also a member of the Philadelphia Phantoms in 2004-05, when the Flyers’ top minor-league affiliate claimed the Calder Cup as the American Hockey League’s champion.