The rumours surfaced earlier this afternoon and were confirmed shortly thereafter--centreman Olli Jokinen, who was swapped to the Rangers for Ales Kotalik and Chris Higgins at this year's trade deadline after he failed to meet expectations as the club's first-line centre, is back; Darryl Sutter signed the Finn to a two-year contract today shortly after signing winger Alex Tanguay to a one-year deal, claiming he never should have traded the centre whom he coveted for so long in the first place. After taking a few hours to absorb the news, there are certainly more questions than answers; here are my thoughts:
While the dollar figures for Jokinen's contract this time around are much more agreeable at two years, $3M/per, any money saved by sending Kotalik to Europe or to the minors will essentially be cancelled out. While it's possible that Jokinen will be a better bet to perform to the standards stipulated by his contract at $3M than he was at $5.5M, it's still a big risk. Jokinen is thirty years old and proved in his last season with the Flames that he can't handle tough competition, and if Brent Sutter and Co. learnt anything from that experience, they'll have to manage his minutes accordingly.
With Tanguay back in the fold, there could likely be less pressure for Jokinen to set up Jarome Iginla both at even strength and on the powerplay, if they are paired together once again. The biggest question mark raised by this signing is the depth chart at centre. Do Langkow, Iginla, and Tanguay or possibly Bourque take on the tough minutes as a unit, leaving the lesser opponents to Jokinen and whomever his linemates may be? At $3.5M, Matt Stajan suddenly becomes an awfully expensive third line centre, although the role and its accompanying minutes are probably better suited to him, and while having Mikael Backlund centering the fourth line makes sense from an ice-time distribution standpoint, will limited minutes affect his development? How much time will he see on the powerplay with the addition of Tanguay and Jokinen?
While Jokinen underachieved last season, he was certainly not the only one; the onus will be on nearly every forward donning the Flaming 'C' next season to up their respective games. Considering the way things unfolded during Jokinen's last stint in Calgary, I'm more than willing to pass judgement on this signing before the new season even begins, but the fact remains that it is still July 1st and the Flames likely aren't finished augmenting their roster. At the moment, I consider this yet another case of the Sutter equilibrium--one good move negated by an utterly nonsensical one--and although I have my (well-established) doubts, both parties are more than welcome to prove me wrong.