Oilers: Jokinen Signing Signals New Direction

It was the sort of signing many Edmonton Oilers fans were hoping Peter Chiarelli would pull off during the summer but were not sold on the idea it would actually come to fruition. By inking veteran Jussi Jokinen to a one-year deal worth $1.1 million late last week, the club decided to finally dip its toe into the unrestricted free agent “value contract” pool. It was nice to see and it was the kind of move Oil Country should get used to seeing.

With Connor McDavid signed, sealed and delivered at a $12.5 million cap hit for eight years starting in 2018-19 and Leon Draisaitl set to cash in over the coming weeks, Chiarelli is going to have to make a habit of acquiring players like the 34-year old winger. While the notion of unrestricted free agency is generally tied to teams or general managers looking to go big game hunting, don’t expect to see this organization to go down that road too often over the course of the next decade.

Instead of throwing multi-million dollar deals at “middling talent” available on the open market, Edmonton has now entered the era where such a move could prove problematic when constructing this roster. We have arguably already seen such a blunder in giving defenceman Kris Russell the kind of dollar and term they did and for their sake, hopefully, it doesn’t come back to bite them.

Regardless of how the Russell situation ultimately plays out, it is next to impossible to take issue with the decision to go after Jokinen. Adding a guy with nearly 900 regular season games on his resume, the ability to comfortably play on either wing and be effective in all three zones is exactly what this team needs. While his best offensive days are likely in his past, he can still chip in on the scoresheet and that should be good enough with everything else he brings to the table.

(Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

Jokinen Experience Will Be Big

His versatility and experience are is a good fit for this roster and the general manager managed to do it on the cheap and with no risk. Worst case scenario, Jokinen isn’t even half the player he was in Florida in 2016-17 and falls flat on his face. Now the chances of that happening seem rather slim but the point is, if it did occur, the Oilers are in a position where they can shake hands and part ways at the end of the year. Simple enough.

There is no way of knowing how this will unfold but, in my mind, the former sixth-round pick of the Dallas Stars still has more to give. Be it at even strength or on special teams, the addition of Jokinen gives Todd McLellan a player he will certainly feel comfortable throwing onto the ice in any situation. Even at his current age, he can be used in a top-six role in a pinch and his ability to help out in the face dot can’t hurt.

And that doesn’t even take into consideration one of the key reasons Chiarelli signed the nine-time 40-point man…helping Jesse Puljujarvi adjust to life in the NHL. It is no secret that most European kids have a tough time adjusting to day-to-day life in North America and that should surprise no one.  After all, it is a completely different world and in most cases, there is also a language barrier to take into consideration.

Jesse Puljujarvi
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Helping Jesse Puljujarvi

In most cases, having a fellow countryman on the roster of such a player has proved beneficial and in this case, there was already a pre-existing relationship between the two Finns.  Puljujarvi actually played for Karpat in SM-Liiga from 2014 to 2016 and Jokinen is a part owner of the club. Obviously, he was and still is familiar with the fourth overall selection in the 2016 Entry Draft and has already stated publicly to being comfortable with taking the youngster under his wing.

While he did not have had the same kind of fanfare surrounding his own arrival to the league, Jokinen went through something similar in Dallas and made a point of both leaning on and learning from Jere Lehtinen. The hope is things will play out in a similar fashion for Puljujarvi in Edmonton and help the 19-year old develop into the impact player most predicted he would become.

No matter how you slice it, the signing of Jussi Jokinen can be viewed as nothing but a win for the Edmonton Oilers. In a perfect world, he will not only make an impact on the ice but also help the organization’s newest star pupil with the learning curve that comes with being an NHL player over the course of an 82-game season. Not too shabby of a return on a $1.1 million investment.