The Nashville Predators gambled on three undervalued centremen in free agency this summer: Derek Roy, Olli Jokinen and Mike Ribeiro. They struck gold with Ribeiro, and have since short sold on their other less, successful, short-term bets. David Poile, doing work.
On Sunday, the Predators sent Olli Jokinen’s expiring contract to the Toronto Maple Leafs as part of the Mike Santorelli, Cody Franson deal. Jokinen, 36, is only part of the trade to make the math work and he was reportedly not at all pleased to be leaving a cup contender south of the Mason-Dixon line to join a dysfunctional, rebuilding team in the heart of the polar vortex:
Let’s just say Olli Jokinen was less than thrilled to hear he had been traded to the Leafs.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) February 15, 2015
Perhaps the veteran pivot shouldn’t worry to much, because it would appear that the Maple Leafs will look to flip him, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.
Read on past the jump for more!
Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis all but admitted that the club’s plan is to flip Jokinen before the deadline during his conference call with media on Sunday.
“Olli hasn’t played a lot,” Nonis began, via David Alter’s recording of the Maple Leafs executive’s telephonic availability. “He’s been in and out of the lineup there, so our plans with Olli are to get him playing, to get his game to the highest possible level, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are playoff teams that will be calling us (about him).
“He’s a quality veteran who would provide a team that has a chance to win with some depth, so our immediate goal is to… get him playing.”
So should teams with a chance of making a playoff run be interested in a player of Jokinen’s ilk?
It’s clear that Jokinen’s game has deteriorated significantly as he’s aged, which is to be expected. A bona fide top-line centre for much of his career, Jokinen has been less than effective over the past three years or so. This season with the Predators Jokinen has logged third-line minutes, mostly on the wing, while scoring at a sub-replacement level rate at 5-on-5.
Even worse: all four of the forwards with whom he’s spent at least 100 even-strength minutes have fared better by shot attempt differential without him, than they’ve done with him. He’s also taken penalties at a very high rate this season, which is another data point that suggests his two-way game has eroded significantly.
On the offensive side of the puck, at least, Jokinen’s complete lack of production is mostly related to awful puck luck. The veteran forward is converting on a paltry 3.6 percent of his shots this season, an unsustainably low rate. The on-ice bounces have been cruel to Jokinen as well, as the Predators have scored on fewer than five percent of their shots when he’s on the ice at 5-on-5.
The veteran forward’s shot rate has remained somewhat healthy, even as his two-way game has atrophied. It didn’t show up in Nashville, but if the right team squeezes Jokinen’s withered rind, they may find it still contains some bottom-of-the-roster level offensive juice.
As a relatively big bodied forward who can kill penalties, Jokinen should have some value for a playoff bound team that’s looking to shore up their forward depth (and perhaps has missed out on a variety of more desirable pieces during the trade deadline frenzy). It won’t be much, but recouping a late-round pick (or maybe even a mid-round pick if the Maple Leafs retain 50 percent of Jokinen’s $2.5 million salary) shouldn’t be out of the question.