Jokinen signs on the dotted line

- July 2nd, 2012

So where did that slow news day go?

This is what NHL free agency can be like.

On a day when you’re scouring Twitter, sending countless e-mails and waiting for something to happen, I had opted to do a column on whether or not the Jets should take a run at right-winger Alexander Semin?

In that piece, I mentioned the Jets were one of the teams in the mix for centre Olli Jokinen.

Then a few hours later, news broke that Jokinen had indeed been signed by the Jets to a two-year deal worth $9 million.

Just like that, the original column is spiked and the story shifts to the Jets’ latest addition.

So one day after retaining depth defenceman Derek Meech and adding big winger Alexei Ponikarovsky to the mix, the Jets got their man in the middle.

The reaction from Jets’ Nation was mixed: some thrilled, some moderately happy, others disappointed.

From where we sit, it’s an upgrade over what they had at centre.

Jokinen is 33-years-old and has been a largely productive player during his career, not to mention durable.

Seven 20-plus and four 30-plus goal campaigns and nine seasons of 50 or more points is nothing to scoff at.

Sure Jokinen turns 34 in December and there are plenty of miles on him, with more than 1,000 games of NHL experience but he’s coming off a 23-goal, 61-point season with the Calgary Flames last season.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to bring a front-line player, a Top-6 player into the organization,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said on a conference call Monday night. “We worked extremely hard on this deal, as we did on the other deals that didn’t come in our direction. All you can do is put your best offers forward and we’re very happy to have Olli as part of the Winnipeg Jets family.”

One issue with Jokinen is that he has only six games of Stanley Cup playoff experience during his 14 seasons, all of them coming in 2009 with the Flames.

Not saying it’s his fault Jokinen played on several talent-strapped teams and he did have two goals and five points in those six games, just pointing out the facts.

On the flip side, Jokinen is a two-time Olympian and helped Finland capture a bronze medal in 2010 and a silver in 2006.

Jokinen, who will be available on a conference call on Tuesday morning, was weighing a few other offers (mostly from Western Conference teams), but embraces playing in Canada and wants to be a piece of the building process.

“His excitement is to want to play with a team that has a bright future,” said Cheveldayoff. “That’s something we really feel that we have. When we did speak with his representative and to him in the end here, he’s very excited about being at the forefront of a group that has young players and has a chance to grow and get better. He’s really looking forward to the opportunity to contribute in that regard.”

What was Day 2 like compared Day 1 of 2012 free agency?

“Everybody was still doing their due diligence and trying to work on their own situations,” said Cheveldayoff. “We had a lot of things on the go and lots of different conversations. We really focused on this (Jokinen deal) this evening here, when everything kind of fell into place.”

As the Jets get set for Day 3 of free agency, working on a long-term deal Evander Kane remains at the top of the priority list, along with finding a backup goalie (Dan Ellis or Al Montoya, perhaps).

Cheveldayoff proclaimed the Jets were pursuing a few other options as well and weren’t done just yet.

“I think you have to keep your eyes and ears open for other opportunities that can help you and make you better and be flexible,” said Cheveldayoff. “There could be different things in the trade market that tweak our interest as well.

“Again, free agency is in its infancy here. Two days in, it seems like a lifetime you spend on different things, but there’s lots of time in the summer here for lots of opportunities.”

Maybe one of those options is Semin (unlikely, but possible).

If so, I’ve got a head-start on my story.

If not, we’re starting from scratch again.

Categories: Hockey

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1 comment

  1. Ray Thorogood says:

    I think Semin is probably out of the question, as is Parise and forget Suter, the Jets have a good up and coming group of D Men.

    Goal tending is a concern, Pav was great last year and I don’t expect anything but the same this year but….. we need a reliable backup. Possibly Nittymaki or Niemi from San Jose.

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