As you've heard time and again this summer, this free-agent class isn't the deepest the NHL has seen. That's especially true at center, where there aren't many big-names to pursue.
The biggest name figured to be Olli Jokinen, the veteran who most recently plyed his trade for the Calgary Flames. You can scratch him off the list because he's going to stay in West-Central Canada, agreeing to a two-year deal with the Winnipeg Jets on Monday.
|2012 NHL Free Agency|
|More NHL coverage|
Darren Dreger of TSN says the deal will cost the Jets $9 million, or an average salary and thus a cap hit of $4.5 million. When you look at the centers to be signed and the going rate of free agents, I don't think we're looking at a bad deal for Winnipeg.
Thanks to capgeek.com, a tremendous website when it comes to hockey contracts, here are some of the guys that Jokinen compares to in cap hit: Ryan Malone, Ray Whitney, Tomas Fleischmann, Ville Leino, Erik Cole and David Legwand. Jokinen seems to fit in pretty well in the middle of that group.
It's a nice raise for Jokinen, who made $3 million in each of the past two seasons. He's coming of his best season since he was with the Panthers in 2007-08. He played all 82 games for the Flames, scoring 23 goals with 38 assists. Centers that can score 60 points are pretty rare in free agency.
The Jets have a few holes, center being one of them, so paying up a little for Jokinen seems like a good move for GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. Jokinen will come in and play big minutes for the Jets. All things considered, the price seems right.
Moreover, it shows that Winnipeg can bring in some players. Despite their raucous fan support some wondered if Winnipeg would be attractive to players. You'll recall Ilya Bryzgalov, then a member of the Phoenix Coyotes, made it pretty clear he didn't want to go to the 'Peg. As silly as it may seem, this proves it shouldn't be much of an issue for Winnipeg, at least no different than other smaller NHL markets.
All that the Jets need to do now is point Jokinen to the nearest McDonald's, we hear he really likes Big Macs.