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HOLY JUMPIN!: JOKINEN, MORRIS TRADES WERE NOT SALARY DUMPS

Friday, 03.06.2009 / 6:27 PM / Holy Jumpin! - a Blog by Darren Pang
By Darren Pang
When Olli Jokinen was traded to the Coyotes at the NHL Draft last year, the Coyotes felt they had that big, strong, offensive-minded centerman they had been craving.

It didn’t work, for whatever reason. There was chemistry that was missing. The big Finnish centerman was trying, but it just wasn’t working. He has another season at $5.5 million, so the assumption is trading him to Calgary was a salary dump.

Part of the problem is my fault. When we got Jokinen, I led the charge saying this is the BIG, STRONG, 35-goal centerman the Coyotes have long been searching for. It is not Jokinen’s fault. He arrived as billed. He WAS, and WILL be a 35-goal scorer that is 6-foot-2, 210 pounds. He is a very gifted hockey player that has lead Finland to International Hockey Titles. He was the Captain in Florida and prior to that was the third overall pick of the Los Angeles Kings. I like the guy. His teammates liked the guy, especially the older players.

Olli Jokinen (left).
The issue was chemistry. This is not Shane Doan’s fault, although he is such a stand-up guy, he will try to take the blame. Everyone was searching for the right combination on the ice. Wayne Gretzky tried every forward with him. The Coyotes have a lot of first- and second-year players. Those players are going to be real good. The assumption was that Jokinen could lead the charge, despite the inexperience he had around him, which isn’t always an easy task with the many proven, veteran players that are in this league.

The coaches tried playing him with Doan, Peter Mueller, Dan Carcillo, Enver Lisin and Kyle Turris, to name a few. It was apparent from my broadcast perch, some 200 feet away, that there was little cohesion.

At the end of the day, the trade deadline can be a magnet.

It is an opportunity to make a move, see what is out there. Some years there are teams that really like what you have. In other years, there is nothing to offer. Many teams liked Jokinen and for good reason.

This is about the Calgary Flames. They tried last year at the deadline to get the big Finn. They have a coach in Mike Keenan that did a great job in getting the most out of Jokinen when both the LA Kings and the NY Islanders could not. That is sports. That does not mean it is a sell-off. What it does mean is it is a good hockey trade for both teams.

Jokinen scored two goals in his Calgary debut playing with Jarome Iginla and Mike Cammalleri.

Scottie Upshall tries to score on Boston goalie Tim Thomas. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer).
Scottie Upshall scored a goal in his debut for the Coyotes, while Matthew Lombardi was strong on key faceoffs, and was very good alongside Doan and Petr Prucha.

Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney and Assistant G.M. Brad Treliving maintained composure and patience at the deadline. They were out of time on Derek Morris as the Boston Bruins failed to give anything back, other than a draft pick. If it was a sell-off, Maloney would have just taken a pick. Instead, he was magnificent in communicating with Glen Sather and the New York Rangers for Morris. Morris had to waive his no-trade clause to agree to go to New York, as it was not one of his preferred teams. He will do great there and played 16 minutes, paired with former Coyote Paul Mara in his first game. Morris was a good player and person for the Coyotes. He also is looking for a long-term deal that the Coyotes didn’t see as part of their future plans. That is the business of pro sports.

So let’s take a closer look:

Morris goes to the Rangers for three players. Is that a sell-off? They ADDED three players. They subtracted $3.95 million (Morris) and added $4.487 million (Nigel Dawes, Dmitri Kalinin and Prucha), who are 23, 28 and 24 years old as compared to Morris at the age of 31. I personally had five players from the Boston Bruins dressing room take me aside and tell me they couldn’t believe how many good, young players the Coyotes added at the deadline, including the three from New York. The Rangers got a solid, reliable player that will be highly motivated and excited to be with a great organization like the Rangers. This is the first time Morris has played for an Original 6 team. There is something special about that.

Derek Morris.
The Coyotes were credited by almost every analyst as a “winner” on trade deadline day. Usually that means a team is out of the playoffs and “sells” every player they have for draft picks and prospects. Maple Leafs G.M. Brian Burke walked by our broadcast booth in Boston and told Dave Strader and me that Maloney was the first star on deadline day. Jay Feaster, the former G.M. of the Tampa Bay Lightning, told a national audience on TSN that Maloney and the Coyotes were the winners of this day. They were the winners for making good hockey moves. All the trades that were made were good trades for BOTH teams. That is the key. NY, Philadelphia and Calgary got players they needed as well. That is the sign of some good dealings.

The Coyotes moved Jokinen and a third-round pick to Calgary for Matthew Lombardi, Brandon Prust and a first-round pick in either 2009 or 2010, depending on Calgary’s choice.

Lombardi makes $2.35 million next season and Prust makes $525,000. Jokinen will make
$5.5 million next year. Plus, the Coyotes got the first- rounder. You will like these well- tested kids from Calgary. Now the Coyotes have financial flexibility to add some key unrestricted free agents on July 1.

On to Philly. The very popular and likeable Carcillo will be greatly missed because he brings moxie and gumption to the ice. I will also miss this energetic player and person. At the end of the day though, it was hard to figure out where he fit in the lineup. He admitted he was struggling with his game and confidence as he had zero goals in his final 14 games in a Coyotes uniform.

Last year, it looked like he may become a solid No. 2 left wing. He wasn’t going to be a No. 3 checking-line winger, as that was not in his makeup. He showed flashes of tremendous upside and I know Philly will love him. He seemed born to wear a Flyers jersey. When you see him in it, you will understand.

The Coyotes received a strong skater and player that can get up and down the ice in a hurry in Scottie Upshall, the former first-round round pick of the Nashville Predators. The Coyotes basically swapped salaries, paying a little more for Upshall. Carcillo does have one more year left on his deal, while Upshall is a restricted free agent. As he showed in Boston playing alongside Turris and Joakim Lindstrom, he isn’t afraid to get involved and has a nice scoring touch. There was good chemistry with the four lines. He scored a goal, had many good hits and played with tenacity.

Josh Tordjman stretches to make a save during an exhibtion game vs. Calgary. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, John Woods).
Mikael Tellqvist went to the Sabres for a fourth-round pick. He was a great team player who will be missed by everyone. It was time to change the hand though as Josh Tordjman needed to see some NHL pucks. He has been great in the American Hockey League now for four years.

So, at the end of the day, watch the Coyotes play. Don’t just read someone’s written opinion and buy into the money and the selling of players. Evaluate their game and team speed and skill level.

All players, trainers and fans forge relationships with players and it is never easy seeing guys go. But make your own evaluation and then tell me this is a “sell-off.” You won’t see it that way. These were hockey moves to make the team better. Those can sometimes be hard decisions, but the best for the players and in the end, the fans that only want to win.

Panger.
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