May 8, 2014, 9:56 AM EST
In late March 2013, no one wanted Jussi Jokinen‘s three-year, $9 million contract.
He was having an off-year with 11 points and a minus-eight rating in 33 contests, so when Carolina put him on waivers, he cleared. The Pittsburgh Penguins agreed to take him, but only for a conditional seventh-round pick and even then, the Hurricanes had to retain $900,000 of his annual cap hit.
Pittsburgh saw immediate returns on their investment as Jokinen stepped up for the battered Penguins for what was left of the 2013 campaign, but when the Penguins got healthy for the playoffs, Jokinen’s role was marginalized.
This season has been a completely different story. He scored 21 goals and 57 points in 81 games and has been an even bigger contributor in the playoffs. Jokinen scored his third game-winning goal of the 2014 postseason last night.
Granted, it was off of Rangers defenseman Marc Staal‘s skate, but he showed a lot of determination on the play. More importantly, his accomplishments go far beyond his efforts last night as he now leads the team in playoff goals with six in 10 games.
“I think if you’re picking a playoff pool and you’re looking for an overtime guy or a guy that’s going to score a big goal, he’s a guy who has consistently done that,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said, per the team’s website.
Jokinen, 31, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Penguins are likely to make a significant effort to re-sign him after the campaign he’s had, but if he does end up hitting the open market, it seems safe to assume that the same teams that balked at his cap hit a year ago would love to sign him at that price now.
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