NHL: After Surgery, Olli Jokinen Still Has Value

Joe LaTengo | Updated May 04, 2012

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On July 1, Olli Jokinen will be an unrestricted free agent. The center is currently recovering from abdominal surgery; the Calgary Flames, his current team, issued a press release stating the condition had been ongoing since March 22 when Jokinen noticed something was wrong while playing against the Minnesota Wild.

Rehab time has been estimated at three to four weeks, and doctors expect the well-traveled 33-year-old to fully recover. While that seems (pardon the pun) cut and dried, there are still some questions which require answers.

Do the Flames want him back? The signing of center Roman Cervenka from the KHL to a one-year deal worth $3.75 million seems to rule that out. Flames general manager Jay Feaster expects the 26-year-old Czech to slot in as one of the top two centers on the team, which sends a signal that the club is going in another direction.

Is there demand for Jokinen’s services elsewhere? Of course. There are several teams which could use a 6-foot-3, 215-pound offensively minded center, and they could probably get him on a short-term deal. His 23 goals (nine on the power play, and five game-winners) are the most he’s scored in three years; 61 points is the highest total he’s accumulated in four years.

Despite the abdominal injury, Jokinen did play all 82 games and managed 18 minutes of ice time per game, so a team with a need for a second-line center could do worse. As suggested in an article posted on BleacherReport.com, Jokinen should have no shortage of suitors, especially at the right price.

Anaheim has the cap space, and Saku Koivu is an unrestricted free agent whom the Ducks might re-sign, but possibly as a third-line center. Phoenix could use him; Daymond Langkow is a UFA and would probably cost more than Jokinen. Colorado has plenty of cap space, and Jay McClement is a UFA while Ryan O’Reilly is a restricted free agent. Matt Duchene is also an RFA; if another team sends him an offer sheet the Avs think they can’t afford, Jokinen could be in play for them.

Two teams in the Eastern Conference might be an even better fit. Buffalo has Cody Hodgson as their current second-line center, but CoHo didn’t exactly thrive under Lindy Ruff’s defense-first philosophy. The most intriguing idea of all may be the Florida Panthers: it’s the place where Jokinen had the most success, and he even captained the team while he was there.

He’s already played for half a dozen clubs in his 13-year career, so it stands to reason that Olli Jokinen ought to find an NHL team for his talents next season.

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