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Joni Pitkanen agrees to 3-year contract with the Carolina Hurricanes

Joni Pitkanen, the UFA player considered the most questionable to return because of the expected high price for his services, has agreed to a three-year contract at $4.5 million per year. The details were announced by Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford a short time ago. This is the same amount as Pitkanen made in the final year of his previous contract in Carolina.

Pitkanen, who will be 28 in September, has been with the Hurricanes the past 3 seasons, and has led the team for ice time, playing in all situations, under the Coach Paul Maurice.

SOG TOI/game
2010 - 11 Joni Pitkanen 72 5 30 35 -2 60 1 1 144


2009 - 10 71 6 40 46 -11 72 1 1 161


2008 - 09 (reg season) 71 7 26 33 +11 58 2 3 147


Since the end of the season we've heard numerous statements from Rutherford on the diminishing likelihood of Pitkanen coming to terms with Carolina and, until this past weekend, it appeared that he would be going to the free agent market to possibly land a $5million+/year lengthy contract. While in St Paul for the NHL Entry Draft, Rutherford was able to meet with players' agents face-to-face and stated Saturday afternoon he was hopeful that most of them would be re-signed.

Link to Full Release

Canes fans are still awaiting news on the status of Erik Cole, Chad LaRose and Jussi Jokinen, all of whom are popular in Raleigh. Erik Cole, the oldest at 31, is coming off a career year.

***UPDATE: The Canes' Paul Branecky posted comments from Rutherford at the team's website this afternoon. Canes Sign Two; Others May Leave which quotes the GM to have some "harsh words" regarding Cole, LaRose and Jokinen. Interpretations at face value and (of course) between the lines of these comments are generating a lot of discussion in the comments below.

After the jump, we've got a poll to indicate your feelings about the Pitkanen announcement.