This summer’s highest profile unrestricted free agent for the Calgary Flames is Olli Jokinen, and for good reason.
He’s been a hot button topic ever since he was traded to Calgary prior to the 2009 trade deadline and that spotlight brightened when he signed back there in the summer of 2010. Now after a strong statistical season, Olli seems poised to cash in.
The question is, will the Flames pay up?
Jokinen, 33, 6’3 and 210 pounds, signed with Calgary on July 1st 2010 as an unrestricted free agent
2011/2012 totals: 82 GP, 23 G, 38 A, 61 P, 54 PIM, -12
2011/2012 cap hit: $3 million
Olli was the highest scoring centre on the Flames last season and the second highest scoring forward on the team. He posted his best statistics since his last season with Florida in 2007-08 and did it while playing the toughest minutes of his career.
Knowing the team is, and was, somewhat thin down the middle, Jokinen’s points were very helpful last season. Nine of his goals came on the power play while five of them ended up being game winners, so he did a good job of scoring important markers and his production helped keep the team afloat, especially in the first half of the season.
Jokinen was a good example of how to, for lack of a better term, transform your game. When he first arrived in Calgary in the initial trade from Phoenix, we all knew Jokinen could score, having posted two seasons hovering around 90 points in the past.
But when it came time for his first full season with the team, then head coach Brent Sutter demanded a strong commitment to two-way play from all of his players. Jokinen struggled with this and was eventually traded to the Rangers in one of the worst trades ever executed by the Flames.
When he re-signed in Calgary the following summer, many wondered if those struggles would continue. They did, until something happened.
It was very clear to see that Jokinen worked hard in simplifying his game and as such he started to become a much more effective player with the Flames.
The second half of the 2010-11 season saw Calgary go on a torrid run in January and February, and that run was helped along in a big way by Jokinen’s line along with Curtis Glencross and David Moss. He was consistent and effective, and that continued on through this past season. Jokinen has skated in straight lines, made smart decisions at the offensive blue line and put himself in good spots to score while also being decent defensively against pretty good players on the other side.
There’s a very strong chance Jokinen’s looking for that one final big ticket contract. It’s a contract the Flames likely do not have the luxury to give him.
As was the same with Lee Stempniak, Calgary doesn’t have the ability to be giving guys in this age range anything more than a two year contract, and Jokinen is four years older than Stempniak is.
I can understand the Jokinen camp wanting to cash in here, and there might be a team willing to give him a contract similar to what, say, David Jones got in Colorado. The Flames would be doing themselves a disservice if they signed Jokinen (or any other 33-year-old) to a contract like that.
While his defensive game has improved, Jokinen is still a guy better suited to play in the toughest matchups. He struggled at times throughout the year against top players on the other side and spent too much time scrambling in his own end. That’s not really his fault, because it’s never been his biggest strength.
Also, Calgary didn’t have a ton of options in terms of matching up, so Jokinen was the guy and did a decent job, all things considered. But it’s still not his strength.
I’m fairly confident Jokinen’s camp wants a contract similar to the one Alex Tanguay signed last summer (5 years, $3.5 million per). Calgary does not have the option to sign him to a deal like that, and I believe they need to walk away.
If they could sign him to a shorter term deal, then maybe there is a discussion to be had, but knowing the spot Jokinen is in, I can’t imagine him not trying to maximize his potential to cash in. Because I’d be shocked if there is any discussion to have regarding a short term deal, I don’t believe the Flames should re-sign their highest profile UFA this summer.