GM Jim Rutherford made a somewhat surprising decision by placing Jussi Jokinen on waivers on Tuesday, but the decision makes sense for the Hurricanes in more ways than one.
The Hurricanes offense is clicking better than it ever has in the past few years. The first line is near the top of the lead leaders, while secondary scoring is coming easily.
Unfortunately for Jokinen, he has not been an integral part of the scoring. He currently has five goals and five assists in 30 games this season. The 29-year-old forward has also not scored in eight games and better options are available for the Hurricanes when it comes to scoring.
Semin, Tlusty and Injury Factor
Alex Semin was re-signed to a 5yr/$35million deal the day before Jokinen was waived. The $7 million price tag is a hefty one for the Hurricanes, who will already pay the Staal brothers more than 6 million each next season.
The Hurricanes are not a salary cap team, but rather a budget salary team, which also explains the waiving of Zach Boychuk earlier this season. Rutherford is forced to be creative with the money he has and choosing to pay Semin $7 million a year and lose Jokinen’s $3 million a-year salary makes sense.
Factor in that the salary cap is dropping to 64.3 million next season and the waiving becomes more understandable.
Jiri Tlusty is having a career season playing with Eric Staal and Semin creating one of the top lines in the Eastern Conference. The emergence of the right winger has pushed Jokinen farther down the depth chart causing the Finland native to play in a more defensive role than the usual scoring role he plays in the top six.
In the past week Carolina has added Tuomu Ruutu and Chad LaRose simply by those two recovering from injuries. Ruutu has always played a vital role in the Hurricanes top six and is relied on greater than Jokinen. LaRose has been used on Eric Staal’s line in the past, but the long-time ‘Cane is better utilized in a third line role supplying grit and energy to a softer bottom six. Ladd figures to take Jokinen’s spot on the third line.
Trade Deadline Approaching
As mentioned earlier, the Hurricanes are a budget team and won’t operate near the 70.2 million cap causing for less options in free agency and trading.
However, the Hurricanes biggest need is another defenseman. With Justin Faulk currently injured and rookie Bobby Sanguinetti playing a bigger role, a stay-at-home defenseman is the Hurricanes biggest need, not another scoring forward.
If Jokinen is claimed, Rutherford will have $3 million more to work with when the trade deadline is here in a week giving the GM more money to play with to improve his team.
Even with all these factors, Jokinen is still a player that can play an important role on another team. On Carolina he was a victim of numbers on the depth chart and on the accounting books, which led the Hurricanes brass to waive him.
Chances are Jokinen will be claimed by another team which will work out the best for both Jokinen and the Hurricanes.
Wes Herrmann graduated from Penn State with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2014. He used to write hockey for Cardiac Cane and Broad Street Buzz and has loved the game since birth. Follow him on Twitter at @Wes_Herrm or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org