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Numbers Game: Jokinen Returns to Calgary

Scott Cullen
7/2/2010 2:12:22 PM
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Perhaps the most shocking signing on the first day of NHL free agency was the Calgary Flames' decision to bring back a centre who hadn't been all that productive with them before getting traded in March.

Numbers Game looks at the return of Olli Jokinen.

The Flames Get: C Olli Jokinen.

A 31-year-old who has played for six NHL teams, Olli Jokinen comes back to Calgary after a brief stint with the New York Rangers at the end of the season.

In his first go-round with the Flames, after being acquired from Phoenix at the trade deadline in 2009 up until the trade to the Rangers at the deadline in 2010, Jokinen scored 19 goals and 50 points, with a minus-5 rating, in 75 games.

Under his previous contract, which paid him $5.25-million, that kind of production was disappointing. 

Under his new deal, which will pay him $3-million per season over the next two years, Jokinen isn't necessarily underperforming if he tallies 50 points, so that alone should help manage expectations.

If Jokinen isn't expected to produce like he did in his peak years with Florida, when he scored more than 30 goals in four of five seasons between 2002 and 2008, then he may be a useful supporting part in the offensive machine.

Considering the uncertainty that surrounds Daymond Langkow, who is recovering from a neck injury suffered late last season, Jokinen's presence does help the Flames' depth down the middle.

Given these factors, Calgary's decision to bring back Jokinen makes some sense, and given the thin class of free agent centres, Jokinen may have been the most feasible -- if uninspiring --  solution. 

That doesn't mean that this move makes the Flames dramatically better, but it does give them more options down the middle and, when combined with the signing of Alex Tanguay, can't hurt the league's 29th-ranked offence.

In fact, the Jokinen signing might make more sense in concert with the Tanguay deal because one of Jokinen's shortcomings is that he's never been much of a distributor, particularly for a centre. 
Since Tanguay is a very good passer, that ought to help compensate for Jokinen's lacking setup tendencies.

Spending a combined $4.7-million on fading veterans like Jokinen and Tanguay isn't the most exciting way to jump into the free agent pool, but when compared to the likes of recently-waived Nigel Dawes and Ales Kotalik, the Flames will have more talent around which to build their lines next season.

Ultimately, if this seemingly desperate trip back in time doesn't work out, though, then it may mean the end of general manager Darryl Sutter's tenure in Calgary. 

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.

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