At one point in his career, Olli Jokinen was good for at least 30 goals per season and by 2006-07 he had a 91-point season. That earned him a multi-year deal worth $5.25 million per year.
Fast-forward three years and Jokinen doesn’t even come close to resembling that player. In his final season with the Florida Panthers he scored 34 goals. The next year he was traded to the Phoenix Coyotes for a brief stop before getting dealt to the Calgary Flames. That year his production dropped to 29 goals scored. This season he started off with the Flames, but he had serious problems scoring so they dealt him to the Rangers where in 26 games he only managed four goals.
By the time his season with the Rangers was over it looked like he couldn’t get off the ice fast enough (some have actually accused him of choking on purpose during the shootout to end his season early). Now, the story might be that he can’t get out of America fast enough.
Eric Huhatscheck of The Globe and Mail wrote that after years of earning big dollars, Jokinen might be out of the NHL because his expectations might be higher than NHL teams are willing to meet. Which is certainly possible. In today’s cap-era hockey a player of his ability is worth no where near $5 million per year and if he isn’t ready to take a deep pay cut then he’s going to have to look outside the country to play hockey.
Here is what Huhatscheck wrote:
"What’s next for Olli Jokinen: Likely Russia, given that he didn’t exactly set the world on fire in New York, after joining the Rangers in a trade with Calgary for Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik. Jokinen last Sunday took the final shot of the season for the Rangers. His inability to score in the shootout against Philadelphia’s Brian Boucher cost them a chance to land the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
"Jokinen was a $5-million player; after wearing out his welcome in the four corners of North America (Florida, Phoenix, Calgary, New York), it is hard to imagine anyone signing him for any amount of money. Jokinen, supposedly a goal-scorer, not a set-up man, had four goals in 26 games for the Rangers."
Unlike Huhatscheck, I can see somebody willing to sign Jokinen. The problem is that he is not going to get anywhere near $5 million, instead think Vinny Prospal’s $1.1 million contract, and he is not going to get first-line minutes. So even though I can see Jokinen staying here if he wanted to, I agree with Huhatscheck in that he’s likely out of here.
For the most part, professional athletes have huge egos. They are used to being the best, and when you played like Jokinen played for a few years, you are pampered and that ego is constantly stroked. Often when players have the type of declining skills that Jokinen has it can be very hard for them to accept their own market value. If there is another market, in this case Russia, that is willing to pay them a little more, they tend to take it.
Jokinen might stay in the NHL, but again, he’s going to have to accept third-line minutes and a huge pay cut. I’m not sure that will be the case.