The Nashville Predators and veteran center Olli Jokinen agreed to a one-year, $2.5 million contract on Wednesday, reports Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet.
The deal continues an interesting offseason for Nashville, which made its biggest move by landing high-scoring winger James Neal from the Pittsburgh Penguins during the draft. Jokinen isn’t on that level as an acquisition, but he should give the Predators another experienced veteran who can contribute both offensively and defensively.
Last season, Jokinen was one of the top forwards for the Winnipeg Jets, recording 18 goals and 43 points while playing all 82 games. As Pro Hockey Talk notes, he’s also highly effective as a defensive forward, and “among Jets regulars in 2013-14, no player started more of his shifts in the defensive zone.”
The Predators will need Jokinen to bolster their scoring, though, which could potentially mean partnering with Neal on the top line. More likely, Jokinen will take a back seat to one of the younger forward while providing production further down the depth chart, but either way, he gives Nashville something it didn’t have before.
While Jokinen only scored 25 goals in 127 games with Winnipeg over the past two years, he was one of the better goal-scorers in the NHL in his prime. From 2003-09, Jokinen averaged roughly 34 goals and 72 points per season as a member of the Florida Panthers, including two seasons of 89-plus points. He’s struggled to sustain that production since leaving Florida as a 29-year-old, however, bouncing around with the Coyotes, Flames, Rangers and Jets before ending up in Tennessee.