Jussi Jokinen owns the faceoff circle.
Mike Gillis noted in an interview on the Team 1040 recently that there has been more waiver action this season than we’ve ever seen in years past. Today there are a couple of intriguing names on waivers in Jussi Jokinen and Kaspars Daugavins, and neither of them is a player of the "one-dimensional fourth line enforcer" variety. With the Canucks forward group so depleted by injury that the team has turned to playing Keith Ballard out of position at left-wing, should they hazard aclaim in on either of these two forwards?
We’ll evaluate on the other side of the jump.
Let’s start with Jussi Jokinen, since he’s more of a known quantity. Jokinen has a variety of attributes that should make him attractive to Canucks brass: he’s relatively productive on the power-play, he’s dynamite in the shootout, he’s versatile (can play on the wing or at centre), he’s a plus possession player capable of winning matchups against tough competition and he wins face-offs by the bucket full (he’s at 58.2% this season). Sounds like a guy who could help this particular iteration of the Canucks, huh?
On the other hand his offensive production has diminished in each of the past three seasons and he only has ten-points in thirty games this year. In my view that shouldn’t concern the Canucks too much, since it’s mostly percentage based. So far this season Jokinen is shooting at a clip 4% below his career average and his on-ice shooting percentage is unsustainably low as well at 5.32%. So his declining production wouldn’t be a good reason to pass up on Jokinen…
His contract might be, however. Jokinen has a cap-hit of three million dollars for this season – which isn’t a big deal considering that the Canucks can put Manny Malhotra and David Booth on LTIR – and next season too, which is the problem.
The cap-crunch the Canucks are facing this offseason (with 60.4 million committed and a diminishing salary cap) has been overstated somewhat, and they shouldn’t be in too much trouble so long as they use a compliance buyout on a guy like Keith Ballard or David Booth, and can find a taker for Roberto Luongo.
Thats are a lot of ifs though, and the Canucks do have guys like Chris Higgins, Mason Raymond, Maxim Lapierre and Chris Tanev (RFA) on expiring contracts and all due a raise. So were the Canucks to claim Jokinen, it would make it difficult to keep much of the club’s depth in tact a year from now.
From a hockey perspective, it’s pretty clear that Jokinen would help the Canucks significantly this season. From the perspective of managing the salary cap, however, I’m not sure it makes too much sense to put in a claim on him.
Kaspars Daugavins is probably the more suitable option for the Canucks, even though Jussi Jokinen is the superior player. The key here is that Daugavins is on a deal worth less than $700,000 at the NHL level, the contract expires after this season, and he’ll be a restricted free-agent when it does. So if you bring him in and it doesn’t work out, oh well, and if it does then you can qualify him and sign him for below market value as a way of offsetting the likely exodus of several depth forwards.
Daugavins has been a plus possession player this season while playing mostly with the likes of Chris Neil and Jim O’Brien in Ottawa. He’s clearly not the sort of play driving forward that his Senators teammates Zack Smith and Erik Condra are, but he’s in the black this season and his WOWY’s don’t suggest that he’s just backpacking on quality linemates. He faces somewhat secondary competition, but he also starts a statistically meaningful majority of his shifts in the defensive end and does well to come out above water. He also appears to have managed to draw penalties at a solid clip over the past couple of seasons.
Daugavins appears to me to be a relatively useful bottom-six forward, and he’s also twenty-four. He doesn’t have Jokinen’s upside, but he also doesn’t come attached to any material commitment for next season which is a huge plus. Ultimately I think he makes significantly more sense for the Canucks to try and claim off of waivers, though I’d be mildly surprised if he makes it as far as their waiver priority slot.