After about five years at least of rumours, many dismissals, much skepticism, and about 800 different e-scale ratings, Olli Jokinen is a member of the Calgary Flames. Wow. I still haven't gotten used to the idea; after I expressed varying levels of skepticism for months, I expressed an audible “HOLY ****” when I saw the trade on the front page of TSN around noon. Darryl Sutter managed to steal the show on trade deadline day, and emerged, at least on paper, the day's biggest winner. However, at the same time it must be noted that Sutter has decided to go all in with Jokinen and the return of Jordan Leopold. I applaud Darryl for his gutsiness today, as I've felt that the Flames are looking at a narrow window to contend this year and needed both players. Both acquisitions plug major holes, and in my opinion, the benefits clearly outweigh the risks for Calgary.
Let's start with the Jokinen trade. Calgary traded beleaguered center Matthew Lombardi, young 4th liner Brandon Prust, and a 1st round pick in either 2009 or 2010 (TSN says Calgary's option..does this mean Calgary gets to decide which year? Because if that's the case, Don Maloney clearly forgot that Calgary already was missing a 2nd and 3rd this year, and thus would obviously prefer to give a 1st next year...) for Jokinen. I have made my thoughts clear on Lombardi. For one last parting shot, and since I'm evaluating the trade, I'll say it again: while Lombardi has all the speed in the world, he does not have the hands to be an effective top six forward. I have always felt this and will feel it unless Lombardi puts up better totals in Phoenix. I wish him luck, but bottom line was, Lombardi was entirely expendable and the Flames were not taking a big risk by trading him. Prust was even more expendable, being a 4th line energy winger who just suffered his second major injury of the season. So if you look at it this way, the trade could essentially be Olli Jokinen for a 2010 1st round pick. (The Flames also got a 3rd rounder this year, after losing their own in last year's trade for Jim Vandermeer). Not much risk there, assuming the Flames are comparably good next year...which brings me to the big risks in Jokinen. I never saw Olli enough in either Florida or Phoenix to accurately judge his ability. I dismiss the criticism that he has never been to the playoffs because as far as I can tell, the failure of Florida or Phoenix to make it didn't seem to be because of him. His career +/- is also a big question mark. However, neither of these things are the biggest risk. The biggest risk is that adding Jokinen's $5.25 million cap hit for next season almost certainly means that the Flames will not be able to re-sign Michael Cammalleri. However, the chances of retaining Cammy barring some sort of discount were already slim, and it's entirely possible Cammalleri has already told Sutter he intends to go to free agency. (A possibility raised by Mark Spector in regards to this situation was Calgary flipping Jokinen at the draft to make room for Cammy's cap hit, but I doubt this would happen.) Overall, this was a trade that Darryl Sutter had to make. Calgary had needed another top six center for years, as Lombardi and Craig Conroy were not getting the job done. With the news today that Todd Bertuzzi is out a month with a knee injury (and the rest of the second line also injured) the Flames needed another forward anyway.
Now on to Calgary's first, less heralded trade: the return of Jordan Leopold. I had my issues with Leopold's defense on his first go-round with Calgary, but am pleased to see another puck-moving defenseman added to the fold. The price was waiver-wire pickup Lawrence Nycholat, farm defenseman Ryan Wilson, and Montreal's second round pick (eerily, acquired for Alex Tanguay, who was traded to Calgary for Leopold three years previous.) With Mark Giordano out until perhaps May, the Flames needed another defenseman and adding a guy who has previous, relatively success with the team is a good thing. Darryl Sutter has always had a tendency to bring guys back, but usually with success. Nycholat was a depth pickup, but had little upside. Wilson is more intriguing. He was an undrafted UFA the Flames signed on July 1 after three years of being Steven Stamkos' captain in the OHL. He had very good offensive numbers in junior, yet went three years without being drafted. I said when the signing happened he could either be a Mark Giordano or a Richie Regehr. That remains to be seen, but neither defenseman likely had much of a future with Calgary. The 2nd round pick, I did not even realize Calgary still had (I assumed the pick would go to Chicago as part of the Rene Bourque deal; either way Sutter was already prepared to lose the pick.) Leopold is a UFA making $1.5 million this year, leaving Calgary with three defenseman to either re-sign or replace (joining Adrian Aucoin and Adam Pardy). Whether he ends up being a rental or not, I believe this trade will end up worth it for Calgary.
The only thing that is clear is that Darryl Sutter managed to steal the show today by going all-in looking to make his team a true contender. He filled his team's two apparent needs – a top six center and defensive depth – without giving up very much. The gambles involved in both deals are generally short term (mainly, today was the day Calgary fans likely know for certain that Mike Cammalleri will walk on July 1.) With the Flames having their best team in years, looking on pace to capture their division and in many lists of the top six teams in the league, Darryl Sutter simply had to make these moves to try and put his team over the top, what with the salary cap drop, his top left wing apparently looking to leave on July 1, and in general the Flames' best chance they may have for a few years. I applaud Sutter for realizing the narrow window he has this year, and making these trades without giving up too much. If these trades fail, they could well be Darryl's biggest failure, but I think the risks are generally not that big.
(More thoughts on the deadline. Darryl also managed to pick up a 4th rounder in a late trade, dealing Quad Cities backup Kevin Lalande to Columbus. With Calgary's few picks this year this is also a good trade....a trade perhaps most emblematic of the new climate is Tampa's trade of basically a 4th rounder to Toronto for $500,000. Or perhaps that's just Tampa...most nonsensical trade was the 3 team deal between Carolina, Los Angeles and Edmonton. Justin Williams for O'Sullivan makes sense I guess, but why flip O'Sullivan for a UFA and clearly declining Erik Cole?...loved the Wisniewski-for-Pahlsson trade, makes a ton of sense for both teams...so Toronto fans, why didn't Nik Antropov get a 1st rounder? I'm honestly curious, I actually did think he would get the 1st....on that note, laughing at Glen Sather's attempts to save his season and perhaps his job...I don't think the Vermette-for-Leclaire deal will get either team very far.)
(One last note: there have been rumors that Jokinen is not a very good team player. I will believe this when I see it; I find it hard to believe that Sutter would pursue a player for so long if it was true.)