The Winnipeg Jets didn’t do much this off-season, but what they did do certainly helped shore up an area of great need. With the signings of Olli Jokinen and Alexei Ponikarovsky, they added some much needed depth to their top six.
Jokinen, 33, signed a 2 year contract that will pay him $9 million. The big Finnish center will certainly add some offense while also going head to head with opposing teams’ top lines.
Last season with Calgary, Jokinen had 23 goals while adding 38 assists, but his maturation into a true two-way center is where he will be more of an asset to a young Jets team. After years of having a reputation as a bad influence, it seems Jokinen finally grew up under Flames coach Brent Sutter.
“A lot of people wrote me off a couple years ago when I went back to Calgary, and those guys believed in me that I could still play in the league and could still be an impact player,” Jokinen said. “The last year and a half, I changed my game to be a better overall player.
“(Brent Sutter) taught me how to play good in both ends and how to play against other teams’ top lines and how to be more helpful to the team, not just score goals and get points.”
If that influence holds true this upcoming season, Jokinen will definitely be a player that talented young center, Mark Scheifele can learn from. Add that to his offensive production, and Evander Kane should certainly improve upon his 30 goal effort from last season.
Ponikarovsky, (1 year, $1.8 million) will not be counted on for offense as much as Jokinen, but at 6’4” 225 pounds, he can certainly be a physical presence. Ponikarovsky will be heading into his 12th season and after his run to the Stanley Cup Finals with the Devils he, like Jokinen, will also be relied upon as a veteran presence in the locker room.
In a weak free agent season, the Jets could not do much (not many teams could), but they upgraded where they needed to. If nothing else, they certainly added some size to a roster that already has some giants up front in 6’6” Nik Antropov, 6’5” Blake Wheeler, and 6’5” 265 pound monster Dustin Byfuglien on the back end.
Opposing goalies will certainly have some fun trying to find their angles with those big boys parking themselves in front of the net on the power-play.