There’s an old saying about not prolonging a mistake just because you expended hours upon hours making it.
So, you can criticize Edmonton Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli for acquiring Jussi Jokinen at the stage of his career where the veteran Finn could no longer make head coach Todd McLellan’s lineup. Or at least, find a way to become an integral part of the team.
Or you can credit Chiarelli for quickly selling the stock, turning the 34-year-old Jokinen — who had just one assist and no goals in 14 games as an Oiler — into 35-year-old former sniper Mike Cammalleri, just 17 games into the season.
However you look at it, Chiarelli dealt a veteran checker for a veteran scorer Tuesday, which makes some sense for the GM of the NHL’s lowest-scoring team, at just 2.24 goals per game. It’s a swap of two players nearing the end of their careers, one who was deemed too slow in Edmonton, for another who the Oilers hope has the hands left to bury a puck or two.
“Well, he’s a shooter. Since he’s entered the league, the one thing he has is an incredible shot and a quick release,” said McLellan of his newest addition. “Given (our) lack of scoring, we think he can come in and use that shot. It’s not that we haven’t created opportunities, we just haven’t finished a lot of them.
“If we can continue to create and he happens to be the receiver of some of those passes, maybe we can get a little more offence out of him.”
It’s really a no-lose for Edmonton. They were getting absolutely nothing from Jokinen, a long-serving veteran whose NHL days are numbered.
Edmonton needs some offensive pop, and although Cammalleri doesn’t have the foot speed he once had he should have some muscle memory remaining after 290 career goals and six 25-goal seasons. That production dropped off the last two seasons with the low-scoring New Jersey Devils (14 and 10 goals) but the two seasons before that he had 27 for the Devils and 26 goals during his last year in Calgary.
“I’m looking forward to experiencing the other side of the Battle of Alberta,” Cammalleri said Tuesday night. He had two stints and four productive seasons in Calgary, sandwiched around a stint with the Montreal Canadiens.
The deal is a wash financially: Jokinen makes $1.1 million, while Camalleri makes $1 million, with another $200,000 bonus if he scores 20 goals this season. The veteran knows a few Oilers players, having played with Adam Larsson in New Jersey, Kris Russell in Calgary, and trained with Darnell Nurse over the summer in Toronto.
Cammalleri opened this season with a four-point night (2-2-4) against Montreal in the Kings’ fourth game, but was supplanted by the excellent play of young Adrian Kempe as the season wore on. Cammalleri played more left wing than centre this season in Los Angeles, and had some time on the second power-play unit — roles that will likely be identical in Edmonton.
He’ll help beef up an Oilers bottom six that has scored but two goals this season, prior to the Oilers game against Las Vegas Tuesday. And he’ll be asked to help a second power-play unit on a club with the league’s 24th-ranked power play (14.9 per cent).
The Kings make this deal with an eye towards beefing up their defensive play. Everyone has loved how they’re more fun to watch since John Stevens took over as head coach, but internally the Kings believe they’re giving up too many chances and leaning too hard on goalie Jonathan Quick.
Jokinen told Postmedia last week that he was having trouble gaining the trust of the coach in Edmonton. He’ll get a fresh start with Stevens in Los Angeles.
“I haven’t been this unlucky ever in my career. I don’t think I’ve gone this long without a goal,” Jokinen said. “I’ve created enough chances for myself and other players this season to have, say, three goals and three assists but it hasn’t happened.”
He falls victim to an entire bottom six that’s been snakebitten and needs a shakeup. Jokinen never did win the trust of McLellan.
“I probably haven’t done that, not as much as other teams I’ve been on,” he lamented.
Cammalleri expects to arrive in Edmonton on Wednesday night, in time for Thursday’s home date against the St. Louis Blues.