Niinimaa Baack?

A rumor from Elite Prospects has Janne Niinimaa interested in making a return to the NHL. With the Oilers painfully low on Finns (just Pitkanen who has no extra syyllaables) and with Spaz being one of my all-time favorites, this is something I endorse.

Niinimaa would be a nice end-of-roster option on D, a man who could bring along the youngsters nicely and be the Ulanov-Cross option for this generation of Taylor Chorney’s.

Also from elite prospects: Looks like Jonas Almtorp is heading back to Europe after a very disappointing NA pro season.

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28 Responses to "Niinimaa Baack?"

  1. kanadienkyle says:

    The only way I would like this move is if he were the last option on the depth chart and was more of a babysitter for Pitkanen, assuming he resigns.

    I was (and am) a big fan, but I think Niinimaa’s game left him some time ago.

  2. DBO says:

    wow LT. Niinimaa back. Not sure how I feel about that. his game was horrible the last few years, and unless he comes over for $750K as a 6th or 7th dman, i wouldn’t want him at the expense of a Smid or Greene.

  3. Mr DeBakey says:


    I’d be more interested in Ville Leino.

  4. Traktor says:

    The 750k would be better invested in Finnish prostitutes for Pitkanen.

    Spaz has nothing left at this point in his career.

    Mikko Luoma would be a better option.

    Why not just pay 3 of Pitkanen’s closest friends 100k per year to come over to Edmonton and keep Joni company. You save 500k and 750k in cap space.

    Niinimaa at the expense of Smid as the 6th/7th defensemen would be horrible management too.

    We already have Matty Roy signed as the PB guy anyways.

    If we bring over a Finn it should be Ossi Vaananen. 6’4 220 pounds and gritty. He’s Matt Greene +

  5. jon k says:

    Vaananen would be a good idea. A nice stabilizing option.

    Spaz’s best days are behind him. Hell, his moderately useful days are long gone as well.

    Leino is overrated and people generally are only aware of him due to EHM.

  6. Mr DeBakey says:

    I don’t know what EHM is

    I’m aware of him because he won the SM-Liga scoring race
    And is a free agent

  7. MikeP says:

    EHM is a hockey simulator, Eastside Hockey Manager. Not like EA Sports, more like a glorified spreadsheet, but really nice.

    Niinimaa back? LT, you’re nuts. I’m not sure he’s got as much game as Crossanov had at the end of their careers.

  8. jon k says:

    As far as I can tell Janne Pesonen won the SM-Liga scoring race, and was a 9th round pick in 2004 by Anaheim. No one seems to be taking much interest in him.

    Regardless, it should be noted that the Finnish super league is quite a few steps behind the RSL and Swedish elite league. Probably not even on par with the AHL.

    Like I said, Leino is overrated in my opinion. I think someone more knowledgeable than I in European play would recommend a few other untapped players above him.

  9. Steve says:

    Part of me would like to see Janne Niinimaa back. Unfortunately, it’s the same part of me that would like to see Mark Messier back (i.e. not the brain).

  10. Devin says:

    LT, man, you’re slipping! Why sign Jani when you can sign Chris Hajt for half the price!?

  11. Jonathan says:

    Niinimaa’s numbers in the Swiss league were nice this year. Of course, it’s Switzerland, which ranks somewhere between the DEL and Italy for quality level. Still, maybe he’d accept a training camp tryout? He probably won’t get more than that from anyone, and if he looks good it would be fun to see him in an Oilers jersey again.

    On the other hand, if we can get Vaananen, I’d be all over that. I’ve always felt he was an underrated defender who could solidify our defence corps.

  12. misfit says:

    Niinimaa was my favorite Oiler for a long time, and I’d love to see him back as a mentor to the young guys…in Springfield. He just isn’t good enough for the NHL anymore.

    However, if he signs an AHL deal ala Ulanov and does well enough, like Igor, he could get signed to the Oilers if injuries cause us to be short on defencemen again (highly possible with Souray, Pitkanen, and Roy on the roster).

    I’d like to see him in the system somewhere, I’d just hate to see the Oilers in a situation where he’s among the 7 best options we’ve got.

  13. oilerdiehard says:

    I love the guy but I see no reason for him to come back. I think it will turn out just about as well and maybe worse than the return of Nedved.

    I do not mind Misfit’s idea of him mentoring guys in the AHL though. If he excels down there then maybe.

  14. HBomb says:

    I do not mind Misfit’s idea of him mentoring guys in the AHL though.

    Convincing him to do this might be a tough sell. Anyone know of any good Finnish death-metal clubs in Springfield?

  15. Lowetide says:

    Niinimaa was beaten up pretty badly during the final few NHL seasons, certainly the season Edmonton traded him he was in some degree of trouble.

    If he’s healthy again, I think he could help. His skill set should have been well suited to the new NHL but health was a problem.

  16. DBO says:

    If we trade Pitkanen, I guess I see the need of a vet to slot in at 6 or 7 on our d. But niinimaa? Anyone know where he played this past year and how it went?

  17. Dennis says:

    I absolutely loved Niinimaa as an Oilers; and this comes from a guy who’s not exactly the easiest on players but somehow found a way to forgive Janne for G4 in ’98;)

    The guy WAS heart and soul and would do anything to win. Guerin coined the Spaz nickname for Janne’s occasional gaffes but they worked themselves out of his game as the years went by.

    Like the man said, though, Janne was pretty much awful by the time his NHL career was done and he was getting in rows with coaches and things were pretty much tough all over. You also have to wonder how things are between Lowe and Janne because the latter played through pain because he knew the club needed him and then when he was dealt Lowe basically laid that out as a reason for his dismissal. Lowe was right when he said the guy was on the downside but it always stung me that he picked on a guy who was as much of an Oiler as anyone I’ve watched for every game since the ’97 season.

    To humor LT for a second and consider that Janne can play in the third pairing, I think that would mean Pitkanen’s out the door and we’d go:

    Janne- Smid or Greene

    So where would Joni go? Would the Kings deal their 2nd overall pick straight up for Pitkanen? I know Lombardi’s building for the future but Joni’s young enough that he’ll still be in prime years by the time all their kids are ready up front. And on the backend they have Vishnovksy, Johnson, Harrold and everyone loves Hickey. But they still need guys now. Though I’m not saying Joni’s worth 2nd overall; but I am asking.

    The other way the Oilers could go is bring in Janne as a mention to Joni and have: Staios-Souray-Grebs-Gilbert-Pitkanen-Niinimaa
    and keep one of Smid-Greene for depth and deal off the other guy.

  18. DBO says:

    Here’s the stats this past year for janne.

    2007-08 Davos Swiss-A 48 9 28 37 127(PIM’s)

    Solid numbers for a good euro league. Looks like in europe he’s a bruiser, or is he just not fast enough anymore. he is only 33 this year, so as a cheap vet option I guess i could live with it. So do you sign Pitkanen and package one of Smid/Greene with Schremp and anaheim’s pick and move up in this year’s draft, maybe into the top 5?

  19. Ducey says:

    Sorry the Oilers already have 44. No room. Lets forget this ever was discussed…

    LT, I think you are getting a little too nostalgic with the end of the Oilers season.

  20. RiversQ says:

    Oh sure, LT. Next thing you’ll be suggesting we fill the front office with a bunch of old Oiler players regardless of qualifications.

  21. Ribs says:

    Niinimaa was great as an Oiler. I was sad to see him leave because I knew he would never excel anywhere else. He loved the Oilers and they really should have kept him around.

    He and Staios were really fun to watch together.

    I think he could probaby fill a Jan Hejda type role if picked up but I’m not sure where that would be a good fit right now.

    I wish they’d just sign or trade Pitkanen and get it over with.

  22. Coach pb9617 says:

    If Vaananen comes back, I endorse that signing, though I’d expect him to have a number of offers

  23. Coach pb9617 says:

    Anyone looking for a fun hockey sim can check here:

    I am in a private league, but the public leagues are good. It’s still buggy, but hey, it’s free.

  24. Black Dog says:

    LT – you love the Finns. Does your wife have a plethora of vowels and ‘n’s in her maiden name? 😉

    Would have loved my hometown – you could have dated Nurmis, Makis, Laaris, Koskis … lots of Finns.

  25. Dennis says:

    MAybe it’s just me but did anyone else reading Matherson’s Gator piece today, look at the last couple of paragraphs and surmise that the Oilers already had a Lupul/Pitkanen trade in the can but then went Smith/Sanderson because they wanted to free up ice-time for Matt Greene??

    That’s honestly the way I read it.

    Here it is:

    __Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren started talking trade with the Oilers around last year’s June draft in Columbus. At the time, Holmgren was trying to move Joni Pitkanen. The Oilers had Joffrey Lupul to dangle, but also felt Matt Greene was ready to take on more minutes as a tough-nosed defenceman, and Smith became expendable.

    “Jason came up at the last minute,” said Holmgren. “It was very late, the day before free agency.”

    That became Smith for Geoff Sanderson, a virtual swap in salaries, both guys in the last year of their contracts.___

    Well, now, that wasn’t very sensible, now was it. Oilers saved 450K in this latter end of the swap but, fuck, talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

  26. Bruce says:

    Dennis: I would call it sweetening the pot. Lupul for Pitkanen wasn’t going to get it done, but any throw-ins would have to balance out on the salary scale. Also on the roster front; the end result was a winger and a defenceman going both ways.

    I would suggest that Pitkanen himself got more of Smith’s minutes than Matt Greene did. Indeed, Greene’s average TOI dimished slightly this season, in part because he was coming back from injury for awhile and in part he was never getting (shudder) Top Two minutes as he did down that horrible stretch drive in 2006-07 (23+ minutes in 12 of the last 15 games, including back-to-backs of 28:24 and 28:22 against the Avs). Like many of the young Oilers, he was clearly out of his depth, and has an ugly -22 on his resume to prove it. But Oilers brass perhaps saw enough of the Good Matt, and saw Smith one year from free agency with the Oilers probably two years from the playoffs, that the deal made some sense. For sure, trading a stay-at-home blueliner for a rover made a hell of a lot of sense at that point. We had Matt Greene who does many of the same things Jason Smith does; and we got nobody can do the things Joni Pitkanen does.

    This year Greene’s average TOI dropped from 17:36 to 16:42, but the range was much more moderate. He topped out at a much more reasonable 22:31 — in Vancouver on Feb. 16, perhaps his best game of the season, and not coincidentally, a game Pitkanen missed which would have moved Matt into the top four for the night. He posted a +2 in a 4-2 loss, found time for a couple of scraps in a very spirited game, and absolutely rocked Ryan Kesler with what may have been my favourite hit by an Oiler in the entire season. That’s the Good Matt, and he’s a force to be reckoned with. Gator was (is) the same way.

    My recollection of Jason Smith himself is that he’s far more effective as a 20-minute-a-night guy, and when his TOI went in the 25-27 minute range we were in trouble. He’s a solid second-pairing guy who will make one hell of a third-pairing guy for a few years yet is my bet. I would argue that’s a pretty reasonable career projection for Matt Greene going forward.

    Our tendency as fans is to make any such comparisons between players as they played for the Oilers, however in this case it’s dangerous. Jason Smith was the same age when he got traded here as Matt Greene will be in the upcoming training camp. There’s a reason we got Smith cheap (2nd and 4th rounders, as I recall); he hadn’t posted great results to that point in his career.

    Smith pre-Oiler: 326 GP, -17
    Smith Oiler: 542 GP, +50

    Greene to date: 151 GP, -31
    Greene future: ???????

    Comparisons far from perfect, Smith went the major junior route and turned pro far earlier, but point is he had his own painful learning curve and matured nicely. I for one project Greene doing the same.

    As for those who want to move one of Greene or Smid to make room for Niinimaa (sp.?), well the past is the past and Janne Niinimaa (sp.?) lives there. I loved Janne as an Oiler, and I want to remember him that way. His last good season was pre-lockout, when he posted a respectable +12 for the Islanders, raoising his career rating to a solid +68. In two seasons after the lockout, Janne posted a net -25 and played his way off of three teams. 104 GP, 3-16-19, -25, not pretty no matter how you slice it. I can’t see how a second season in Europe will “help” Niinimaa (sp.?) any more than the lockout season did.

    Smid and Greene meanwhile might also be four or five years away from their best seasons, but at least time is moving in the right direction for those guys. 🙂

  27. Jonathan says:

    So long, Jonas, we hardly knew you. Have a nice life.

  28. oilerdiehard says:

    I am not so sure about the Gator thrown in to free up ice for Greene.

    Reportedly Philly also had a deal in place with Carolina. Involving Niclas Wallin who would not waive his NTC. You know it was not straight up Wallin for Pitkanen so to me that says Philly wanted a forward and D back in a deal.

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