Shunned by top free agents, Predators settle for Olli Jokinen
Shot down by Jason Spezza, handcuffed by Vincent Lecavalier, and shunned by the top free agents, it looked as though Nashville GM David Poile was in deep to fill a gaping hole at center.
And then Olli Jokinen said, "Yes."
The former Winnipeg Jets pivot has agreed to a one-year $2.5 million contract, according to Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos.
He's not exactly the prize the Predators were looking for. At 34, Jokinen's best days are long behind him. But he can still fill a secondary role. He scored 18 goals and put up 25 assists while averaging about 17 minutes over 82 games last season, and he was three-for-eight in the shootout. He'll log some time on the second power play units and the penalty kill. so he can be a useful support piece. But the fact that Poile had to resort to another aging player in decline highlights just how far this franchise has to go before it will be regarded as a legitimate option for free agents...or players armed with no-movement clauses, such as Jason Spezza, who reportedly turned down a trade to the Preds before accepting a ticket to Dallas.
The arrival of new coach Peter Laviolette and his up-tempo game should help, and the perception that arises from bold moves like the draft-day deal to acquire James Neal will, too. But at this pace the Preds are still a long way from being a winner, especially in a division that's hosting its own private arms race. In the past 24 hours alone, Dallas added Spezza and Ales Hemsky, Chicago brought in Brad Richards, Colorado added Jarome Iginla, and St. Louis signed Paul Stastny. All of those players are superior additions to Jokinen, helping push Nashville to the back of the Central Division pack.
There may be better times ahead for the Predators, but on a day like this they feel a long way away.
On Wednesday's SI Now, Sports Illustrated senior writer Brian Cazeneuve and reporter Sarah Kwak discuss the Western Conference's dominance in NHL free agency.