TORONTO — Olli Jokinen may not have been too happy about getting shuttled from one of the NHL’s best teams to one of its worst in Sunday’s Nashville-Toronto trade.
But he also wasn’t thrilled with how things had been going with the Predators, either.
“I think I wasn’t used properly over there,” Jokinen said Monday. “I signed there as a centreman — I don’t know what happened between July 2 and the training camp, but I found myself as a wing. To play right wing most of the year I was very uncomfortable.
“I’ve never played wing before in my life.”
Now in Toronto, the 36-year-old is on the same page as the Leafs.
Not only will he be given a spot at centre, he’ll likely see plenty of ice time as Toronto looks to showcase him ahead of the March 2 trade deadline. There is hope that a contending team might offer up a late-round draft pick to acquire the veteran for depth down the stretch.
Jokinen put up just six points in 48 games for Nashville before seeing a string of healthy scratches in the last two weeks, but had 18 goals for the Winnipeg Jets last season.
The main reason he chose Nashville over other suitors in the summer is because he felt they had a chance to be a contender. Of course, he also expected to be used in the same position where he’d played more than 1,100 career NHL games to that point.
“As a player you try to do your job the best you can,” said Jokinen. “I didn’t go to the coaches and tell them to put me in the centre. I tried to do my role as best I can. Everything was good (until) about two weeks, when what I was doing was not good enough anymore.
“I’m here now.”
The biggest question is how long the stay lasts.
The Leafs only have six games remaining before the trade deadline, starting with Tuesday’s visit from Florida, so Jokinen has limited opportunity to prove that his role in Nashville contributed to the dramatic drop in production.
Even though he’s now playing for his ninth NHL team, his playoff experience amounts to just six games with Calgary in 2008-09.
When Leafs general manager Dave Nonis spoke with Jokinen on Sunday, he promised to try and find him a spot on a contending team. He has two weeks to try and make it happen.
“In this business you never know what’s going to happen, you know?” said Jokinen. “Right now I’m a Maple Leaf and I’ll approach it day by day. As a player going to a new team you try to fit into the room and you’ve got a job to do.
“You’ve got to respect the game, you’ve got to respect the players who play it and you’ve got to enjoy playing this game. That’s the bottom line. You do what they tell you.”