Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 06/29/09 at 07:54 PM ET
On Monday, the Hurricanes agreed to terms with forward Jussi Jokinen on a two-year deal. He will earn $1.5M in 2009-10 and &1.9M in 2010-11.
This is a huge coup for the Canes, as they have saved a bit of money by signing him before he became a RFA on Wednesday.
Jokinen made $1.875 last season, and was one of many casualties in Tampa. He joined the Hurricanes in February after a trade sent Wade Brookbank, Josef Melichar and a fourth round pick in this year’s draft to the Lightning. Brookbank and Melichar were pieces of garbage, so this was really a fourth round pick for Jokinen.
The 26-year old Finn, who is no relation to Olli Jokinen, scored just one goal and ten assists in 25 regular season games for the Hurricanes. Not counted in those stats was a shootout winner against the Sabres. He was a stud in the playoffs, scoring seven goals and adding four assists for a total of eleven points in 18 postseason games played. Of those seven postseason goals, three were game-winners, including the game four winner against New Jersey with 00:00.2 showing on the clock.
The consensus was that Jokinen would, based on his playoff heroics, get a raise. Now he’s actually taking a pay cut to stay in Raleigh. A couple of weeks ago, I predicted that he had earned himself a new contract and that he probably wouldn’t see a huge raise. I wasn’t expecting him to take a cut, though.
Jokinen is an extremely valuable guy in a lot of ways. He can play any forward position. He is effective on both specialty teams. He’s very good in the faceoff circle. He excels in pressure situations. He’s one of the best shootout guys in the league, with a patented move:
Jokinen would have become a RFA on Wednesday, so the timing of this is a little strange. It’s not as if the clock was ticking, but I’m quite pleased with the way it turned out. However, it actually turns out to be a savings. If Jokinen had actually become a RFA, the Canes would have had to offer him a qualifying sheet of $1.875M, and then they might have had to enter a bidding war. This way (after figuring the cap hit), they saved at least $175k. A smart move by Mr. Rutherford.
Now that Jokinen is re-signed and Joni Pitkänen is still under contract, there remains the issue of Carolina’s other Finn. Tuomo Ruutu, who is undoubtedly one of the fan favorites in Raleigh, and who has certainly earned a new deal, will become a RFA on July 1. He earned $2.25M in 2008-09, and will be due for a raise. Because of his price tag, there’s not much chance that any team will seriously pursue him as an RFA. If Carolina tenders an offer sheet of $2,615,625 or better, any team who outbids Carolina would have to surrender a first round draft pick and a third round draft pick. My guess then, is that the Canes will offer Ruutu a sheet with a multi-year contract and an average salary of $2.75M or more. He’s earned it, and it makes good business sense to protect the investment like that. A few weeks ago, I predicted that his payday would be in the $3M range.
The more pressing concern is Chad LaRose. He’ll become an UFA on Wednesday, and if the Hurricanes can’t get him signed tout de suite they’ll probably lose him. He’s a fan favorite and a prototypical lunch pail guy. Not to mention, a great story. He was undrafted, but was part of the Compuware midget hockey program, which was started by Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos. It will be a sad day indeed if the Hurricanes are unable to retain his services.
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About Red and Black Hockey
David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.