Who gets the deal?

Robin Brownlee
March 12 2008 12:58PM

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So, OilersNation fans, if you were Kevin Lowe and you could only sign Joni Pitkanen or Denis Grebeshkov—not both—to a new contract this summer, who'd get the ink and who'd get a ticket out of town? Had you asked that question in October, you'd deserve to get raked upside the melon with the Stupid Stick.

It didn't take MENSA membership to figure out Pitkanen, the lanky Finn Lowe got from Philadelphia by unloading man-about-town Joffrey Lupul and sweetening the pot with captain Jason Smith, was the guy. Pitkanen's pedigree, not to mention seasons of 46 and 43 points with a couple of lame Flyer teams in 2005-06 and 2006-07, made it a no-brainer. Even reporters could figure it out.

At the same time, Grebeshkov, obtained from the New York Islanders for butter-fingered Marc-Andre Bergeron, might as well have been in the FBI's Witness Protection Program. He played all of eight games with the Los Angeles Kings and 21 more with the Islanders, managing a combined five points. The rest of his time was spent in Manchester and Bridgeport of the AHL and with Jaroslavl in Russia—without distinction, I might add.

Zip ahead to today, after a 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues, and the question doesn't seem so dim, now does it, Mr. Big Forehead? What about right now? Based on this last stretch, in which the Oilers have won seven of their last eight games, which one of the 24-year-old blue liners gets the deal?

As of today, Pitkanen has scored 7-13-20 and is a minus-7 in the 52 games he's played. Grebeshkov has tallied 2-11-13 and is minus-2 in 59 games. Pitkanen had been logging an average of 24:17 in ice time a game before being cut back to 19:01 against the Blues. Grebeshkov's numbers had come with just 15:47 a night before Craig MacTavish bumped him up to 27:01 against St. Louis.

Keep in mind, Pitkanen will be coming off a season in which he is earning $2.4 million. Grebeshkov's deal pays him $950,000 this season. Bang for the buck, especially in a salary cap world, plays into it.

You've still got to sign Tom Gilbert, who is also a RFA this summer. Up front, Jarret Stoll and Robert Nilsson need contracts. Likewise, how big a splash to you want to make in the unrestricted free agent market?

So, who gets the deal, and why?

By the way, if you want to read David Staples' take on this, you can read him the Cult of Hockey in today's Edmonton Journal.

—Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 5pm on Total Sports with Bob Stauffer on Team 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 risto
March 12 2008, 01:24PM
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Pitkanen has a ton of value, and is probably playing a little hurt. I'd love to see the Oilers keep all the defensemen.......

Tom Gilbert is only going to get better, and will become a great NHL defenseman.

It's nice to see Grebeshkov step it up, because many of us are still haunted by MAB riding Ladd into Roli and mortally wounding our latest shot at the Grail.

You sign Grebeshkov because of the 6 million dollar DJ with the howitzer locked up until forever, and hope Toronto signs Pitkanen and we get a ton of draft picks.

(or sign both, and trade Stolli....yikes!)

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#2 TonyRomo
March 12 2008, 05:20PM
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This is a tough one Robin. I'd say you go with Pitkannen, Grebeshkov can't command much. Gilbert is the one you want to keep, provided these stories I keep hearing about him wanting $4 mil arent true...

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#3 Ed
March 12 2008, 05:38PM
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In the battle between unproven players, Pitkannen is less unproven (or is that more proven)

In either event Pitkannen can stay provided he stays under 3 to 3.5 mil. Definitely give him a one year deal though

Risto - why is Souray a 6 million dollar Dj?

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#4 RobinB
March 12 2008, 05:50PM
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Ed: Here's the rub. I can tell you after talking to people in the Oilers front office in recent weeks that agent Larry Kelly believes Pitkanen is worth closer to $4.5 million a season than $3.5 million. Can the Oilers pay two defencemen (Souray and Pitkanen) more than $9 million combined a season and still address their other needs and signings?

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#5 Oilersninja
March 12 2008, 08:04PM
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now I am not an accountant, player agent, GM or Brain Scientist. But here is my suggestion albeit (I believe that is a word)expensive why doesnt the new boss man buyout out our broken down cannon's contract? then we could sign who we need to sign and do some damage God willing)come free agent time

PS

I moonlight as a space cowboy

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#6 Hemsky is a gangsta
March 12 2008, 09:23PM
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Pitkanen is the superior player, we need to get him signed because when he rebounds he's going to be a huge player for us

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#7 Muller
March 12 2008, 10:41PM
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Robin is Pitkanen interested in playing with the Oil long term? Joni seems to have no emotion when the Oilers score or finish up a game.

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#8 David S
March 12 2008, 10:56PM
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Stoll needs a contract?

You're kidding, right? More like he'd be lucky to get a contract after this year. He's one of the guys we should dump to make room for a real difference maker.

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#9 Robin B
March 12 2008, 11:19PM
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Muller: I haven't heard Pitkanen go beyond saying he "likes it" here. When pressed about the future, he, as many players, talks about just wanting to play and win now, the rest is up to his agent and he leaves that stuff to him, blah, blah, blah. Funny, I thought the agent worked for the player. As for emotion, Pitkanen keeps a very even keel. He's guarded, which can be mis-read as not caring or being aloof. He's certainly not the gregarious type.

David S: What part of Stoll needs a contract don't you understand? If the Oilers don't offer Stoll a contract, they lose him for nothing. Is that a plan in your mind? If you think he's got no value, that he should be lost for nothing, then you are exceedingly dim. If you're of the mind that there's no chance he'll regain his form of two seasons ago and should be signed and then traded, that's a different matter. The people who make the decisions -- Lowe and MacTavish -- aren't ready to give up on Stoll as quickly as you apparently have.

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#10 oilers4lyfe
March 12 2008, 11:49PM
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David, the question regarding Stoll, for me, is *why* he's slumping this year. If it's due to the concussions and the outlook is poor for a recovery, then we should absolutely dump him - but I think the glimpse of the potential we saw while he was healthy means we shouldn't give up on him just yet if we don't have to.

Plus I've got a soft spot for a guy that gives 100% every shift and doesn't shy from the PK or back-checking.

Robin: don't think I've forgotten about you, I've got a bit more to say regarding Stortini and his ilk. Soon...

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#11 Christopher Brass
March 13 2008, 08:25AM
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why do we seem to have these cap issues???? are highest paid player is souray? anaheim: has pronger, niedermeyer, shcneider... all making 5.5 mil plus? detroit : rafalski , lidstrom, both above 6 mil.. how are this teams locking up such huge key assests??? i mean look at those names above... if pitkanen wants 5 mill a yr, let him walk, why would we screw ourselves on a long term contract for a guy who isn't anywhere near those names above... he is making 2.4 million this year and he has 20 pts... so why does he think he deserves a raise? management has to start playing hardball with these guys.. grebeskov makes 900,000, give him a slight raise on a 3-4 yr contract... 1.1 , 1.3, 1.5 . 1.7... these players have it all too easy now adays.. a half decent year and then they want a huge payday... i am so glad cleary signes his contract .. now we just show stoll that contract and say ... yer not getting an ounce more then daniel cleary until u freakin score 20 goals... same to nilsson.....

ask pitkanen, if he wants 4-5 million, if he thinks it would be cool showing up to the arena in a ferrari, if his defence partner is allain rourke, and were last place next year...boo him if he demands that money... i guess if we tie up that money with him... and keep rollie we may get a sniff of taveres next year....

christopher brass

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#12 Christopher Brass
March 13 2008, 08:28AM
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oh by the way, if edmonton signs stoll for trent hunter money i would be VERY HAPPY!!! 10 - FOR 5 YEARS.. STOLL IS A SUPERIOR FACE OFF MAN AND HIS SHOT IS PRICELESS, even if he becomes are 3rd line centre....but we now he's better then that.. stoll IS A KEEPER!!!

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#13 Oilman
March 13 2008, 11:56AM
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Buy out Roloson and use the extra space to sign both.

The $2.4M one year deal was to see how he'd play as there were question marks around Joni. Still is, sign him to another short term deal for a smallish bump in salary.

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#14 SpikefromDusseldorf
March 13 2008, 02:19PM
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There is no comparison between Pitkanen and Grebeshkov. The latter is a sub par skater and an adequate defender. Everyone needs to take a breath. Playing 15 minutes against the other teams 3rd and 4th line is nowhere near the same degree of difficulty as first line time. Pitkanen is a top pairing D man... Grebeshkov...not so much

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#15 Pat Mc
March 13 2008, 07:13PM
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Pitkanen is the better player, plays tougher minutes, has bigger upside. The game I saw in November he was by far the most impressive physical specimen - size, skating - he has it all.

He also gets hurt a lot and always leaves you wanting more.

Ideally Lowe would build a time machine, go back to last July and not call Sheldon Souray. Can't buy him out - what would the cap hit be almost two million a year for eight years - is that how that works?

Same with Roli - buy him out and you're paying 1.2 next year and the year after. Plus you have to replace him. May as well keep him.

Stoll and Pitkanen are the interesting cases. Stoll as less even strength goals then seventeen other Oilers.

No matter how you cut it that is terrible. Would he take a one year deal? Does he have a choice?

I'd say move him but then you need a centre.

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#16 Robin B
March 13 2008, 07:20PM
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Pat Mc: There's always a sign-and-trade option with Stoll if Lowe decides it's time for him go to, but I can tell you this: team brass is not at the point where they have any intention of just dumping him for anything they can get.

Patience is a difficult, especially since Stoll teased everybody two seasons ago, but that's their approach.

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#17 David S
March 13 2008, 07:32PM
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OK. I'll admit I may have been a bit harsh about Stoll. He is a great face-off guy and no doubt pretty decent on the PK. And I loved his play before he got scrambled. But man, other than the occasional one-knee slapper, he's been pretty brutal in the offensive zone at -20. He's killing whatever line he plays on. And that's not just my observation, its a common sentiment out there in the 'sphere.

You can't see it as much on TV, but I've been to a half dozen or so games this year and its pretty obvious that he's shying away alot once he goes across the opposing team's blue line. Its probably a mental thing, avoiding another brain scramble.

Still, well over $2 million for the odd slapper and a good face-off record seems pretty steep to me. Its pretty obvious the guy's got some problems, even to a non-expert fan like me. If there's a team out there that's willing to pay that kind of cash for "what might be", then you'd think the smart move would be to take that offer. Unless of course you think the guy will come around. Until now anyway, there's been little evidence to support that line of thinking. The only thing I can think of is that he must alot more messed up than we know.

Speaking of which, Robin can you share with us why it is we haven't heard anything from Raffi for the past few months, unlike Moreau who checks in once and awhile?

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#18 RobinB
March 13 2008, 10:23PM
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David S: Good question about Raffi, but I don't have an answer. I haven't seen him around the dressing room, but a lot of guys do rehab work very early, like 6 a.m., then go home long before practice starts at 10 a.m. Might be worth a phone call to Raffi.

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#19 risto
March 14 2008, 02:02PM
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Ed: Souray was on the radio, spinning some tunes and answering some questions.

Now, the Oilers website has him making pizza.

I want to see all the injured Oilers have a free-for-all paintball battle.

You know, Pitkanen is great, but the results aren't there for what he thinks he's worth. I say keep him, but since we are so tight to the cap, tough decisions will be made.

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#20 Gord Mark
March 15 2008, 04:16PM
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I'm shocked that Souray can sling dough without missing another season of games. The Oilers might want to look into these off-ice activities.

I'd bring Stoll back and flank him with Torres and Pisani on a checking line. Stoll's not gonna cost much and he's a great faceoff guy and PKer so what's the risk?

Robin: Yeah, that Would be a good idea to check in on Raffi. We've seen Horc, Moreau and Souray since they checked out for the season, can't say the same for Raffi.

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