UFA Decisions: Fernando Pisani

Jonathan Willis
April 29 2010 10:33AM

Edmonton Oilers v Ottawa Senators 

UFA Decisions considers the unrestricted free agents on the Oilers’ roster, starting with the most expensive and working down.  Today's subject is Fernando Pisani. 

Hometown boy Fernando Pisani took the long road to the NHL. The former St. Albert Saint was drafted quite late in 1996, and then spent four years at Providence College, where he scored 153 points in 147 games. Then he spent two and half years in the AHL, where he showed some offensive touch; he was on pace for 34 goals in his final season in the minors.

Altogether, Pisani spent nearly seven years in the system before he made his NHL debut, but once he got his chance, he stayed.

Over his first three seasons with the Oilers – interrupted by the lockout – Pisani proved himself a stalwart defensive player who could score a bit as well. He was looking at a decent raise in the 2006 off-season, after scoring 18 goals and managing 37 points.

Then the 2006 playoffs intervened. Edmonton went on a miraculous run which was fuelled in part by Pisani, who scored 14 goals while firing pucks in at a 28.6 shooting percentage, more than double his career rate, and more than double what he’d shot in the regular season (his best goal-scoring year in the NHL, both at the time and to date). The Oilers decided to lock him up anyway – $10.0 million over four years – hoping that while he might cool off he could still be an offensive player.

It was a lousy bet to begin with, but it got worse as Pisani’s colitis – he’d been diagnosed in 2005 but the symptoms had been minor and the Oilers were apparently unaware of that issue when they signed him – flared up in the summer of 2007.

Pisani has struggled through repeated bouts of the illness (and was robbed of the Masterton Trophy last year and not even nominated this year) and hasn’t been the player he was prior to the disease impacting his career. His massive four year contract expires this summer, and he finds himself an unrestricted free agent.

What I’d Do As G.M. 

I’ve always liked Pisani, partially because of his playoff heroics but mostly because of the player he is: he’s a capable two-way guy who doesn’t cheat for offence, plays wherever he’s told to and puts in the effort every night. He was instant chemistry for a while, bouncing from line to line and stabilizing whichever group he played with; one of the best things he’s done as an Oiler is act as a responsible steward for younger line-mates.

He can’t be relied on in that role any more, and with his health the way it is I wouldn’t count on him to play more than a fourth line role. As Oilers’ G.M., that’s the contract I’d offer him – a one- or two-year pact in the $750,000 range. I’d pencil him in as a fourth line player, and if he were healthy enough to play a bigger role on the roster I’d have found myself a bargain. 

What I Expect To Happen 

Steve Tambellini has made it clear repeatedly that he’s rebuilding the team from the ground up, and I don’t expect him to share my view that Fernando Pisani could be a useful veteran mentor to younger players. I suspect that the Oilers will let Pisani go in the off-season, and that someone else will sign him on the cheap or bring him in on a training camp tryout in the fall.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
April 29 2010, 06:36PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Original Ogden Brother:

Yeah, that's exactly what I thought - last summer.

Well we know who's fault that was ;)

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#52 magisterrex
April 29 2010, 07:12PM
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Is there something in the CBA that prevents a team from asking for a player's medical history? It just seems inconceivable that management would somehow miss this seemingly essential part of the due diligence process.

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#53 KenL
April 29 2010, 08:10PM
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If Tambo is true to his word, and we need to obliterate the past, then Pisini has to go. He's been a great soldier, but his illness is not worth keeping on a team that desperately needs new blood.

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#54 Crash
April 29 2010, 08:23PM
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No to Pisani and yes to beefing up the bottom six with ornery in your face guys who can also play a bit....we have to move some of our smaller skill guys such as Cogs so why not target some guys via trade who bring that grit and nastiness that we need...such as David Clarkson from New Jersey...we could also target Adam Burish, Colby Armstrong as UFA's...wasn't Zenon Konopka mentioned by Brownlee earlier?...

We already have a soft player in the bottom six (Horcoff)...please no more aging injury prone one dimensional guys (Pisani)...We need the toughness and grit.

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#55 Team Hall
April 29 2010, 09:09PM
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I get the feeling this will be like the Marty Reasoner thing. Some team will sign him on the cheap and he will turn into exactly the type of vet we could have used. In our haste to bring in a "new culture" we will throw out another cheap, useful part. Good read JW. Agreed, 100%

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#56 Team Hall
April 29 2010, 09:15PM
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Agreed, you think there are all these cheap good vets that we can sign for 750K, and then at the end of the summer you didn't get any, they all went to SJ and Detroit etc. Here we have a fish in the net, lets keep it. But check on that collitis thing first this time. Makes me wonder again how much due dilligence the Oilers management really do on players before they sign/draft them. No idea about Pisani's collitis, Khabbys back, and we have already selected Seguin before the Combine (Bob Stauffer). Hmmmm, maybe time to do some research first.

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@Team Hall

There was all those vets last year problem was Tambo had no intention of signing any of them he figure we'd be able to will that void from within. And judging from the fans he isn't exactly that far fetched. I keep hearing JFJ, Pisani, Stone, Pouilot, Potulny, etc. should be kept as they can fill the third-fourth line void. But when the GM actually tries that and it fails he gets ripped for it.

Which is it fans? If you are going to rip on the guy for staying status quo, don't bitch about losing guys that just aren't good enough to play in the NHL for a whole year.

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#59 Digger
April 30 2010, 12:21PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Crash:

At his best, Pisani provides both defence and an offensive touch. That's two dimensions.

At his best, yes.

Unfortunately, it's been around 5 years since we've seen that 2nd dimension, and with his steadily declining play and health for the past 3-4 years there is absolutely no logical reason to think Fernando will find that game again. I won't say it's impossible, but it would certainly be bucking the odds for him to do so.

Which leaves him as a 4th liner. While he can certainly play at that level, I can't see him as a 4th liner for the Oilers as long as Quinn's the coach...he seems to want his 4th line to bring energy and disruption to the opposition, two things that Pisani doesn't really bring to the table. He's more the quietly efficient type.

I wish him well, but Pisani's got some hills to climb that he'll likely be tackling while wearing a different uniform.

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#60 JohnQPublic
May 01 2010, 02:34PM
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Tough call on Pisani. The odds against him are high (i.e. illness, culture change).

For the right contract, I think he should be signed, but my gut tells me he's gone in The Purge of 2010.

Ask yourself this, though: at $750K./yr what role player out there is better?

Not many.

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