Today seems like a perfect time to delve into this discussion as Olli Jokinen and his burger-eating, slump-busting self seems to be on the top of the list of everything Calgary Flames right now (honourable mention to the backstop, of course).
Jokinen makes his thoughts of the on-going contract discussions known in an article by Randy Sportak of the Calgary Sun.
"If they decide a deal today, I’m OK. If they decide a deal at the end of June, I’m OK. If they decide a deal July 1, I’m OK. Whatever (the Flames) think is best for them, they will do," he said. "Some guys don’t want to think about a deal, but I’ve been around enough to know my job is to play my best every day. It’s not a distraction to me. For some guys, it could be a distraction, but my main focus is to try to bring it every night."
What about the faction of Flames fans who will insist he be traded should the Flames fall out of the race for 8th? Well, Jokinen addresses that as well.
"I don’t have to worry about it because I have a no-movement clause in my contract."
So, we know he wants to come back and we know the team wants him back as evidenced by the contracts talks, so it's only inevitable that we have a conversation about just how much both sides are asking for in this negotiation. Let's take a look at some of the factors to consider and see if we can't come to a reasonable conclusion.
Jokinen's current contract is a 2-year, 6 million dollar pact that, as addressed earlier, includes a No-Movement Clause (confirmed by taking a glance at Jokinen's capgeek page).
His current offensive statistics and pace:
GP: 54 G: 16 A: 29 PTS: 45 - good enough for first on the Flames
on pace for - GP: 82 G: 24 A: 44 PTS: 68 - his best since his final season with the Florida Panthers
Add to that his SH% is at 10.3, much closer to his prime years with the Panthers and even his stint in Phoenix.
Now, the first thing that I'll point out here is that if he maintains that sort of pace and gets to 68 points, then, he'll have achieved the offensive equivalent of Alex Tanguay last season with the added defensive component he brings on top of Tanguay's contributions. Right there - given their similarities in age and desire to play in Cowtown - should put the Tanguay contract (5-year, 17.5 mil, 3.5 AAV, modified NTC) as a pretty solid comparable, even despite the fact they play different positions (which would again, play in Jokinen's favour as centre is a more coveted position than wing, especially for teams like the Flames). What bothers me about that comparable is the length of the contract as it gives Jokinen pretty good grounds to pursue one of that length, or use it to barter for more short-term cash.
The increase in the salary cap since he signed his two-year deal with the Flames is 8%, another tool he may be able to use in his favour.
Let's look at some more comparables of centres who achieved that sort of production last season:
Patrik Elias: 35, 6 mil AAV, Mikhail Grabovski: 28, 3.1 AAV, Vincent Lecavalier: um, yeah... no, Joe Thornton: 32, 7 mil AAV, Mikko Koivu: 28, 6.725 AAV
All of those names above finished with similar production to Olli Jokinen (based on this seasons pace) last season, but I think it's fair to say they're not great comparables. I'll dig up a few more to give us, hopefully, a better idea.
Antoine Vermette: 29, 3.75 AAV, Tomas Plekanec: 29, 5.0 AAV, Rich Peverley: 29, 3.25 AAV (starting next season), Nik Antropov: 31, 4.06 AAV, David Legwand 31, 4.5 AAV
I think, for the most part, we can all agree that Olli Jokinen is currently offering the Flames quite a bit of value with his 3 million dollar cap hit and he has a lot of leverage to use in his negotiations with the team. As you can see, there's a pile of similar centres in the league making a whole lot more than he is right now.
For Jay Feaster, or Ken King, or whomever negotiates the deal on part of the Flames, they'll have a few bits of leverage themselves, and thankfully, maybe the biggest one - Jokinen's desire to stay in Calgary. The other being his role on the team - as a second-line centre - and, of course, his age.
They'll also be able to use a no-movement clause to lower the asking price.
On Jokinen's end, expect to see an attempt to get somewhere in the range of 3-5 years at 4-5 million or anywhere from 12-25 million total. Given the contract to Tanguay, he's well within his rights to believe the team will give him something of the same, as it's fairly easy to argue his importance as equivalent or greater than the LW.
For the Flames, I'd table the identical offer from two years ago. 2 years, 6 million with a NMC, or if they're too concerned about the no-movement (and maybe they should be) then I'd go 2 years, 7 million.
And then, there's the total wild-card. Perhaps Jokinen's biggest desire aside from staying in Calgary and not putting further toll on his family would be to win the Stanley Cup and he's willing to take a pay-cut to make it happen? I seriously doubt that will happen, but you never know.
I expect Jokinen to get a raise, but I'd say his pace of 68 points is inflated due to his 4-point night in SJ just last night. For Calgary, wait until the off-season, chances are his point total will level off a bit more into the 55-60 range and the team isn't likely to make the playoffs and that will give them even further leverage in the negotiations. Obviously, Jokinen doesn't care if it's done now, or then, so it behooves the team to wait.
It's going to be interesting to see how it all plays out, for now, all we know is that you'd better get used to Olli in a Flames uniform because he'll be wearing it through the trade deadline and beyond.