Is Joni Pitkanen Buffalo's Missing Piece?

Mark Recchi joined the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, Brad Stuart was sent to Detroit in 2008 and Bill Guerin donned a Pittsburgh uniform last year. What do the situations of these three players have in common? For one, they were all shipped off at the trade deadline. Each of them was expected to play a role for a contending club in the playoffs and lastly, a Stanley Cup ring was in the palm of their hands at the end of it all. Their contributions can be found below.

Mark Recchi: 25 games played, seven goals, nine assists, 16 points.

Brad Stuart: 21 games played, one goal, six assists, seven points.

Bill Guerin: 24 games played, seven goals, eight assists, 15 points.

Stuart was brought into Detroit more for his physicality than offense and he was a thorn in the side of his opponents in 2008, especially the Pittsburgh Penguins. Bringing in a player or two for a playoff push is customary and wise if you can acquire what the organization needs. A little extra grit here and some shot-blocking ability there can change the fate of a series.

With 30 wins and 67 points, the Buffalo Sabres are on the verge of ending a two-year playoff drought and sealing home ice advantage for round one. If I were to point my finger at a drastic issue, it would be the powerplay which has paid off 18 per cent of the time. Special teams must be prepared in every detail before the postseason and I'm sure Darcy Regier knows this. While Tyler Myers is taking tremendous steps to becoming a leader on the blue line, mistakes come in the postseason with the first-time experience in a package deal.

A powerplay quarterback should be on Buffalo's shopping list when the deadline day arrives. At first, I thought Sergei Gonchar could be that man because Pittsburgh will unlikely be able to sign him to an extension. A second glance indicated that it's just not possible. Without Gonchar, the Penguins powerplay has struggled during his minor injuries and his presence is comforting for the playoffs.

So where does that leave us? I read a quick piece written by our friends over at Canes Country, the Carolina Hurricanes blog, and it sparked an idea.

Joni Pitkanen

#25 / Defenseman / Carolina Hurricanes



Sep 19, 1983

Carolina is in re-building mode, well, they will be and Joni Pitkanen is the person with the most interest out of the group that is under contract for next season. Earning $4 million dollars in salary and scheduled to receive $4.5 million in 2011, it wouldn't be too hard for the Sabres to wiggle some room for him as they have nearly $2 million in cap space already.

With Buffalo's defensive depth, someone from the back line would have to leave obviously in exchange but this is a deal worth considering. The Finnish Olympian has had a monstrous campaign which is going largely unnoticed because of the fact Carolina is ranked last in the Eastern Conference. Pitkanen has 28 points in 42 contests and is aiming at a career-year offensively. Those are exquisite numbers for a defenseman who's in his position with the Hurricanes. They have struggled mightily and Joe Corvo's absence has just about placed all of the offense from the back onto his hockey stick. But Pitkanen hasn't been petrified by the work-load.

And the veteran brings everything the Sabres need. His first-pass efficiency is extraordinary (watch how often he springs Jussi Jokinen into the opposite zone), he's cool under pressure, a smart decision maker, a special teams weapon, a character guy, occasionally gritty and logs a ton of ice time (currently averaging the most throughout the league at over 27 minutes per game). What more can we ask for? Could Joni Pitkanen be the final element the Buffalo Sabres are in search of?

The description certainly matches the prerequisites.

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