Inquirer Daily News
Flames land biggest prize on deadline day

Dan Di Sciullo, NHL Editor

Dan Di Sciullo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Big things were expected when the Phoenix Coyotes landed centerman Olli Jokinen in a trade over the summer. Even greater expectations await now that Jokinen has switched addresses to another city, this time to join a franchise with Stanley Cup aspirations.

After just 57 games in a Coyotes uniform, Jokinen was dealt to the Calgary Flames in the marquee move of this year's edition of the NHL trade deadline.

Overall, this year's deadline featured a flurry of activity, but no other trade came close to matching the impact of Calgary's deal for Jokinen. In fact, the biggest story on deadline day after Jokinen was the fact that Florida decided not to trade defenseman Jay Bouwmeester.

Adding Jokinen to the roster was apparently something Flames general manager Darryl Sutter had been contemplating for some time. However, when Florida was shopping Jokinen at last summer's draft, it was the Coyotes who made the Panthers the best offer as they shipped Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton east to land the Finnish forward.

Of course, the Flames were able to eventually get their man, and they wound up acquiring Jokinen from Phoenix for much less than Florida was asking for him last June. The Coyotes, who have been facing myriad financial problems this season, decided to dump Jokinen, who after the 2008-09 campaign still has one season left on a four-year deal he signed with Florida in 2006.

In addition to nabbing Jokinen, Calgary also re-acquired Jordan Leopold from Colorado, bringing back the solid defenseman who the Flames dealt to the Avalanche in the summer of 2006. Leopold had played three seasons with Calgary prior to being shipped to Denver.

All told, to obtain Jokinen and Leopold, the best player the Flames gave up was centerman Matthew Lombardi, who has nine goals and 30 points for Calgary this season. The Flames also handed over a conditional first-round pick in the Jokinen deal and parted with a second-round selection as part of the Leopold trade.

The trade for Jokinen signifies Calgary's desire to win right now. The Flames are already first in the Northwest Division and are on a collision course with the third seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

Calgary was nearly able to win it all for the first time since 1989 a few years back, but has stumbled since then and is now determined to be mentioned among the NHL's elite.

It was Sutter who led the Flames to the Stanley Cup final as a coach in 2004, and he is on a quest to get the club back to that stage as a GM -- the position he took when he resigned his head coaching job following the 2005-06 campaign.

Since losing to Tampa Bay in seven games during the 2004 final, Calgary has been stuck in a holding pattern of sorts, as it has made the postseason every year since only to be knocked out in the first round on each occasion.

In 2007-08, the idea was to bring fiery head coach Mike Keenan on board to shake things up. However, just like the previous two seasons, the Flames made it to the playoffs only to be knocked out in the first round.

This past offseason, Sutter opted to make numerous on-ice personnel changes designed to get the Flames back to the promised land. The Flames let veteran forwards like Kristian Huselius, Owen Nolan, Alex Tanguay and Stephane Yelle walk and filled in some of those spots with newcomers such as Mike Cammalleri, Todd Bertuzzi, Rene Bourque and Curtis Glencross.

The arrival of Cammalleri was the best move Sutter made over the summer, as the left winger has taken some of the scoring load off Calgary's main offensive weapon, Jarome Iginla. Last year, Iginla had 32 more points than the second-highest scoring Flame, but in 2008-09, Cammalleri has five more goals than Iginla and is just 10 points behind Calgary's captain.

With Jokinen now expecting to be a part of that top line, the Flames should have one of the most-feared units in the NHL, one that would boast speed, skill and an abundance of size.

One concern for Sutter and the Flames is that Jokinen, despite recording 503 points in just over a decade as an NHL player, has never played in a single postseason game, as a result of the fact that he played seven years for a Florida organization that hasn't always placed winning as its top priority.

However, Jokinen is likely to build chemistry with Iginla in the weeks leading up to the playoffs, and that process will be essential for the Finnish centerman to gain confidence heading into his first postseason.

For most of the year, the Western Conference playoffs were expected to be a two-horse race between 2008 Cup champions Detroit and San Jose, which is a perennial regular-season powerhouse that has historically stumbled in the postseason. The arrival of Jokinen, however, will almost certainly add the Flames to that conversation.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Dan Di Sciullo at ddisciullo@sportsnetwork.com.
Dan Di Sciullo