Flyers send Pitkanen, Sanderson to Oilers

Posted: July 02, 2007

Former Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock once said there was a "disconnect" with Joni Pitkanen that neither he nor the coaching staff could ever resolve.

Yesterday, the Flyers permanently disconnected the defenseman when they traded the 23-year-old Pitkanen to Edmonton for 23-year-old right winger Joffrey Lupul and 33-year-old defenseman Jason Smith. The Flyers included winger Geoff Sanderson, 35, and a third-round draft pick in the deal.

Pitkanen was gifted with talent but given to continual mistakes on the ice. The Flyers felt he simply "didn't get it," as one member of the organization said. In short, the coaches felt they could not get the defenseman to understand what they wanted from him despite long hours of film and on-ice work.

In three seasons, Pitkanen had 25 goals and 91 assists for 116 points in 206 regular-season games. He had 210 penalty minutes. Pitkanen was drafted by the Flyers in the first round of the 2002 NHL entry draft (fourth overall), a pick the Flyers got from Tampa Bay for Ruslan Fedotenko.

The acquisition of Smith gives the Flyers leadership on the blue line.

He is a prototypical defensive defenseman, having served as the Oilers' longtime captain. With the signing yesterday of Daniel Briere - a cocaptain in Buffalo - the Flyers have acquired three ex-captains for this season, including defenseman Kimmo Timonen (Nashville).

"Jason is a throwback player," said Paul Holmgren, the Flyers general manager. "He's a warrior, a character defenseman. Not great offensively, but he can make a good first pass. He can complement an offensive guy. He has tremendous heart."

The Flyers' defense will be older next season with Smith, Timonen (33 years old), Derian Hatcher (34) and Denis Gauthier (30), but it will be considerably stronger, including the addition of Lasse Kukkonen.

Lupul's rating was minus-29 last season, but the Flyers had a roster full of minus players. If Lupul plays on a line with Sami Kapanen and Mike Richards, the Flyers might have a serviceable checking unit that can create some offense.

Loose pucks. The Flyers had to rework the language in winger Scott Hartnell's contract, which is why the NHL had him listed as being an unrestricted free agent this weekend. The revised contract was signed and approved yesterday. . . . Lupul's salary-cap number is $2,312,000; Smith's is $1,976,000. The Flyers are $1 million under the $50.3 million cap.


The Smith Factor

The Flyers acquired defenseman Jason Smith yesterday, just three days after the 76ers traded for power forward Jason Smith in a draft-night deal.

From 1988 to '90, the Sixers had a player named Derek Smith at the same time the Flyers employed Derrick Smith.


Contact staff writer Tim Panaccio at 215-854-2847 or tpanaccio@phillynews.com.

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