2013-14 Season In Review: Jussi Jokinen

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

We continue our series looking back on the individual performances of each of the Pittsburgh Penguins players. Next up: Jussi Jokinen.

Age: 31 (April 1, 1983)

Contract Status: Unrestricted free agent; completed a 3-year $9M contract originally signed with Carolina, who retained $900K of his annual salary following his trade to Pittsburgh in April 2013

Buyout Status: n/a

2013-14 Stats

GP

TOI/GP

Goals

Assists

Points

81 (2)

15:42 (8)

21 (5)

36 (3)

57 (5)

Corsi For %

Corsi Rel %

Quality of Comp. (TOI%)

Zone Start %

PDO

54.8% (3)

+8.6% (2)

28.7% (8)

57.1% (5)

100.7% (9)

(Numbers in parentheses indicate descending rank among regular Penguins forwards.)

The Universal Remote

Jussi Jokinen arrived in Pittsburgh somewhat quietly and unceremoniously. He was overshadowed by the more visible acquisitions of Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray during the 2013 trade deadline. Originally drafted by the Dallas Stars in the 6th round of 2001 NHL entry draft, he was in his 8th season and on his 4th team, after Tampa and Carolina. He was acquired more as an afterthought, a temporary replacement for Crosby as he went down with a broken jaw for the remainder of the regular season.

Quietly and without much fanfare, Jokinen proceeded to do everything and anything the team needed him to do. While Crosby was out, Jokinen proved to be a more than capable fill-in at center, and following Crosby's return he shifted to the bottom 6 and continued to be a productive, responsible player. In the end, he turned out to be far and away the best acquisition of last year's trade deadline.

The incredible thing was that Jussi was acquired for - virtually - nothing. He was in the second year of a 3-year deal with the Hurricanes and was placed on waivers as he fell out of favor with the coaching staff. He cleared the waivers without any takers and was then traded to Pittsburgh for a conditional 6th- or 7th-round pick (conditional upon the Pens making the SCF or winning the Cup last year). As those conditions weren't met, the Pens ended up not giving up any picks, and Carolina retained $900K of his $3M salary for the remainder of his contract. $2.1M for a 20-goal, 60-point scorer - now that's a more than decent value.

Another underappreciated fact about Jussi Jokinen is his remarkable durability. He has never played less than 70 games in a full NHL season (and played 43 out of 48 games in lockout-shortened 2012-13 season), and has topped 80 games in 4 out of 8 full seasons he participated in. Of all the players on the Penguins roster this past season, only Craig Adams, Pascal Dupuis and Brooks Orpik have played in more regular season NHL games than Jussi Jokinen's 660 regular season games over 9 NHL seasons.

GIFs of the Year

Jussi to the rescue with a clear on Dubinsky (April 22, 2014):

Brandon Sutter springs Jussi on a breakaway (May 5, 2014)

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Jussi shoots, he scores (May 7, 2014) (Gif credit @PeteBlackburn)

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Jussi keeps scoring on Lundqvist, but the cavalry never rides to the rescue (May 13, 2014)

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Preseason Expectations

Clearly after his 2013 campaign, everyone who followed the Pens closely understood what a good player Jokinen was and how fortunate we were to end up with him. Given his versatility and proven ability to play either center or wing, and the fact that the spot on Malkin's LW was not officially spoken for, expectations were that Jokinen and/or Bennett were going to get a shot there. It's probably reasonable to state that he was expected to be comfortably a top-9 forward and play with Malkin or Sutter as circumstances required, and probably do well in both situations.

Verdict

Jokinen turned out to be a great fit on Malkin's left wing, and was the team's 5th highest scoring forward in the regular season. In fact, the argument that Jokinen was the Penguins third best forward overall, after Crosby and Malkin, doesn't seem too outlandish given that he didn't have the time on the top PP unit that Kunitz and Neal had to rack up those points. Jussi continued to contribute in faceoffs, shootouts and pretty much everything else. Because he largely played with Malkin, he had favorable zone starts and he made the most of that situation. Toward the end of the regular season, he developed a habit for taking an ill-advised penalty just so he could even more perfectly complement his linemates. In the playoffs, Jussi turned it up another notch. He led the team in goals and was second in points behind Malkin. He continued to play smart, opportunistic hockey, putting the puck on net and making good things happen. Around that time Mike Colligan posted a fantastic article titled How Jussi Jokinen Transformed the NHL Breakout. It's well worth your time and it's an absolute must-read.

Somewhere in there, Jokinen managed to suit up for Finland for the 11th time in international competitions, earning a bronze medal after playing all 7 games for the Finnish Olympic team in Sochi. Of 11 international appearances, he has 7 medals to show for it.

Unfortunately, his excellent tenure with the Pens punctuated with an outstanding post-season also means that Jussi Jokinen will be a highly sought after free agent who will be well outside of the Pens' limited budget. He will probably command a salary in the range of $4-5M annually, which he is absolutely worth and which we unfortunately aren't in a position to pay him. Unless he is willing to give a substantial home-team discount (and given the GM change and uncertainty about the coaching staff that's a big question mark), he is most likely gone. If he were willing to sign a Pascal Dupuis-like contract, I'd give it to him in a heartbeat, but he will get substantially higher valuations from other teams and will probably play his quiet, efficient hockey somewhere else. We loved you as a Penguin, Jussi. Cheers.

***

Feel free to vote in the poll below to grade Jussi Jokinen's season on a scale from 1 to 10. Vote based on your expectations for him coming into the season -- i.e., 1 being "he was incredibly disappointing and I want him out now", 10 being "he was outstanding even beyond my craziest expectations".

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