Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Jokinen The Tip of the Jets Free Agent Iceberg

Olli Jokinen - the newest Jet - signed for two years at $9 million.
(Photo Courtesy TSN.ca)

Interesting was a common theme around the Twitterverse Monday evening after the Winnipeg Jets inked centre Olli Jokinen to a two-year, $9 million contract.

The 6'3, 210 Jokinen provides the Jets with something they dearly lacked down the middle at the centre position: size.

The former third overall pick tweeted out his signing empathically stating he was excited to play "in front of the loudest fans in Canada!" (@ollijokinen13)

Jets General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff stated that Jokinen had the pre-stated size along with experience and consistency.

"We believe that will adding the size of Alexei Ponikarovsky and now Jokinen, we're a much bigger and harder team to play against." stated Cheveldayoff, who has signed two players over 6'3 in the firs two days of free agency. (TSN.ca, 07/03/2012)

The numbers don't lie for the, at first, high inconsistent Jokinen.

In 14 NHL seasons, he has netted 20 or more goals and 50 or more points in seven of those seasons, including his career season in 2006-07 where he notched 39 goals and 91 points with the Florida Panthers.

Despite being inconsistent in his early career with the Los Angeles Kings, Jokinen found his stride in South Florida with the Panthers and has played on six different NHL teams, most recently being the number one centre in Calgary.

Jokinen's pay day in Winnipeg is a raise from the $3 million he was making in Calgary when he notched 61 points in all 82 games for the Flames last season.

It was a big season for Jokinen as he had hit a rough patch in his career, having only produced 54, 50, and 57 the three years previous with Calgary, Phoenix Coytotes, and New York Rangers after campaigns of 71, 91, and 89 in Florida.

At $4.5 million per the next two seasons in Winnipeg, Jokinen's task will be to aid the production of younger stars, such as Evander Kane.

Not only that, but Jokinen will play an integral leadership role with the club.

Though earlier in his career it was rumoured that he was a negative presence in any dressing room, Jokinen has developed and matured as a player and a person in the room and has become a consistent player.

Cheveldayoff is making the Jets less Thrasheresque.
(Photo Courtesy Yahoo! Sports)
According to TSN's Scott Cullen, since 2000-01, there are only two other players who have played more games than Jokinen - Vancouver Canuck Henrik Sedin and still-a-UFA Andrew Brunette. (TSN.ca, 07/03/2012)

However, there are only two other players who have a worst plus/minus than Jokinen over that period - New Jersey's Ilya Kovalchuk and retiree Mike Sillinger - with a -96.

For Jokinen, he has proven to be effective as a role player later on in his career.  With his size and offensive abilities, it is an interesting and productive signing by the Jets.

No one saw this signing coming, but any Jets fan would tell you that the Jets needed another centreman - and size was a big requirement.

With Jokinen added to the fold, the question becomes whether the Jets re-sign Kyle Wellwood or let their younger players fill the void from St. John's.

Whatever is up Cheveldayoff's sleeve, he is sure making this off-season more interesting and creating an identity for the team that is less and less Thrasheresque.

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