The Nashville Predators became one of the final NHL teams to sign a new player in the free agency period by inking forward Olli Jokinen to a one-year deal a few minutes ago.
“Olli Jokinen is a proven veteran center who will provide us with size, leadership and offensive ability in the tough Central Division and Western Conference,” Poile said. “He provides our coaching staff with more depth and options at the forward position and coach Laviolette believes he is a good fit for our style of play.”
Not intended to be the No. 1 center that Nashville needs primarily, Jokinen should fit into the club’s bottom-six forward group while adding a little more offensive talent in that role then the Predators have had in the past. Last season with the Winnipeg Jets, the 35-year-old center recorded 18 goals and 43 points.
The Finn’s best offensive years are behind him, but Jokinen has shown the ability to be responsible defensively while chipping in some timely goals in recent seasons. From 2002 to 2008, the forward broke the 30-goal plateau in four out of five seasons.
Trading Nick Spaling to the Pittsburgh Penguins as a part of the trade for James Neal freed up Nashville’s third line center spot, and that’s likely where Jokinen will end up next season. At only a one-year deal, the Predators will have a reliable veteran in an important slot on the team while giving time for centers like Calle Jarnkrok and Austin Watson another season to mature.
Jokinen will also bring the added dynamic of leadership to the Predators, the forward has served in a leadership role in eight of his last 11 seasons in the NHL. The Finn most recently served as an alternate captain with the Jets and was the Florida Panthers captain for six years.