NASHVILLE — The Nashville Predators signed centre Olli Jokinen on Wednesday in their latest attempt to boost an offence that has lacked punch.
The 35-year-old Jokinen had 18 goals and 25 assists in 82 games last season for the Winnipeg Jets. He signed a one-year deal worth $2.5 million.
"Olli is a guy that all through his career has played against the top lines," Predators general manager David Poile said during a news conference. "He’s a big, physical player that can play against the best players in the National Hockey League. His record speaks for itself. He’s a guy that’s scored a lot of goals in his career. We expect that this is another guy that’s going to help us increase our offensive production."
The Predators ranked 19th in the league with 2.61 goals per game last season and missed the playoffs for the second straight year. After the season, the Predators fired Barry Trotz — the only coach in franchise history – and replaced him with Peter Laviolette.
Laviolette and Poile have discussed the Predators’ hopes of improving the team’s offence. The Predators’ off-season moves have reflected that desire.
The Predators acquired forward James Neal in a Friday trade that sent forwards Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Neal had 27 goals and 34 assists in 59 games this season, which marked the sixth straight year he scored at least 20 goals.
Now they’ve added a veteran presence in Jokinen, who has 317 goals and 423 assists in 1,169 career regular-season games that have taken him all over the NHL. Jokinen had two stints with Calgary and also played with the Los Angeles Kings, New York Islanders, Florida Panthers, Phoenix Coyotes and New York Rangers before coming to Winnipeg in 2012.
Jokinen, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound centre, has scored at least 20 goals in seven seasons and has reached the 30-goal mark four times. Jokinen was an NHL All-Star in 2003, and he has been a team captain or alternate captain in eight of his last 11 seasons.
Poile cited Jokinen’s experience and versatility should help the Predators. Poile said the Predators are penciling Jokinen in at centre but also believe he can play wing.
"With all the young players that we have here, I think the idea of adding that veteran forward presence was the right thing to do," Poile said.