Penguins general manager Ray Shero has made a recent habit of getting the jump on his peers around NHL trade deadline time, but he’s not above making a deal near the wire, either.
According to TSN.ca hockey reporter Bob McKenzie, Shero beat the 3 p.m. trade freeze with another swap, the fourth in the past two weeks that adds a player to the Penguins roster:
CAR trading Jussi Jokinen to PIT for a conditional pick. Trade call pending. CAR is taking back some money in deal. #tradecentre
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) April 3, 2013
Jokinen, a Finnish forward who turned 30 Monday, has played eight NHL seasons for three different teams, netting 346 points along the way. He’s scored 11 points in 33 games for the Hurricanes this year, but the left-handed shooter was placed on waivers last week by Carolina GM Jim Rutherford.
Jokinen [pronounced YOKE-in-en] went unclaimed, perhaps due to his $3 million salary, which he will also earn next season before his current contract expires. As McKenzie indicated, the trade is dependent on the Hurricanes paying some portion of Jokinen’s salary-cap hit, a transaction that is now legal under the new collective bargaining agreement.
A center by trade, Jokinen could feasibly fit into the spot between Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz that has been temporarily vacated by the injured Sidney Crosby. Tyler Kennedy centered that line Tuesday night to unimpressive results.
At 5-foot-11 and 198 pounds, Jokinen will not be a physical presence, but he does bring a good amount of skill to the ice. He made his reputation early in his career as a shootout specialist with the Dallas Stars, and he converted at or above 50 percent for much of his first few years in the league.
He hasn’t been as successful in the tiebreaker lately, but he can provide faceoff prowess to a team that is missing its top draw-taker. This year, Jokinen has won 168 of 283 faceoffs, a 59 percent success rate. Crosby has won a little over 54 percent this season, helping the Penguins to a top-five ranking in that category as a team (51.8 percent).
In addition, Jokinen has averaged 1:25 of shorthanded time per game, meaning that he could boost a penalty-killing unit that is lagging behind where it has traditionally been under coach Dan Bylsma. The Penguins are killing penalties at an 81.7 percent clip, 12th in the NHL; last season they were third (87.8) and they were first (86.1) in 2010-11.
At the very least, acquiring Jokinen provides more depth on a team that is stockpiling it in hopes of an extended playoff run. The Penguins (28-9-0, 56 points) reached first place in the Eastern Conference even before bringing veterans Brendan Morrow, Douglas Murray and Jarome Iginla into the dressing room via recent trades.