The Calgary Flames positioned themselves for a Stanley Cup run with two key trades.
Flames GM Darryl Sutter first grabbed defenseman Jordan Leopold from the Colorado Avalanche, but his blockbuster came later in the day when he pulled the trigger on arguably the biggest deal of the day by getting center Olli Jokinen from Phoenix in a trade that involved three players and two draft picks.
Jokinen, who has never played in a playoff game despite being in his 11th NHL season, was groomed under Flames coach Mike Keenan in Florida for three seasons from 2001-04. Leopold spent three seasons (2002-06) with the Flames.
Calgary also got Phoenix's third-round pick in this year's Entry Draft in exchange for forwards Matthew Lombardi and Brandon Prust as well as a conditional first-round pick. The Flames will give Phoenix notice by June 1 on whether they are giving up this year's first-round pick or their first-round pick in 2010.
Leopold is heading to Calgary from Colorado in exchange for defenseman Lawrence Nycholat, a second-round draft pick and defense prospect Ryan Wilson. The second-round pick originally belonged to Montreal. It came to Calgary as part of the Alex Tanguay deal this summer.
Ironically, Leopold was sent to Colorado in 2006 in a trade that sent Tanguay to Calgary.
"We always said we wanted someone who is a No. 1 centerman and it's always hard to attain that player. To do that sends a message that we're not just trying to make the playoffs, but go deep in the playoffs," Sutter told the NHL Network. "The same thing with Jordan. I think we needed another quality guy there, not from a depth standpoint, but more for a guy that fits into the group and knows the group. I think it should be an easy transition especially with Mike having coached Jokinen before."
Jokinen, who is signed through next season, has been in the League since 1997 and has played in 780 NHL regular-season games. It's the most NHL regular season games anyone has ever played without a playoff appearance by a landslide.
Second on the current list is the Kings' Derek Armstrong, who has played in 454, but unless something drastic happens in the next five weeks Jokinen will make his first playoff appearance. Calgary leads the Northwest Division and is third in the West with 82 points.
"I have never been traded at the deadline, so it will be interesting to join a new team at this time of the year," Jokinen told the NHL Network. "I just have to bring my best and do my best every single night. That's all I can do. I don't have to impress the reporters and that kind of stuff."
Sutter said Bourque (high ankle sprain) won't be back until the playoffs and Bertuzzi had arthroscopic knee surgery Tuesday and will be out at least a month. Primeau won't start skating until April and Giordano (shoulder surgery) is out for the season. Langkow (hand) is listed as day-to-day, but he is not on the Flames' current seven-game road trip.
"It's the only way to make it work," Sutter said of using the injuries as leverage to add salary now. "We had cap room coming in at just over a million and a half and with those guys we added some room. We left the day with still more out there so we're good."
It will be interesting to see where Keenan chooses to play Jokinen. He could slot in as the Flames' top-line center and play with Jarome Iginla and, potentially, Bertuzzi when he gets healthy. That could be a lethal top line.
"It's up to the coaching staff," Sutter said. "We still have Daymond out of the lineup so we're still pretty much in flux for the next three or four weeks. Hopefully we can get some of those injured guys back and try to maintain our position in the conference."
Jokinen, who is signed for one more season, had 42 points in 57 games this season, his first in Phoenix after being traded there during the 2008 Entry Draft for defenseman Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton as well as a second-round pick.
He is in his 10th full NHL season and is headed to his fifth organization after starting with the Los Angeles Kings before moving to the New York Islanders, Florida, Phoenix and now Calgary.
"I have been lucky to play with some good teammates and I'm definitely going to miss the guys in Phoenix," Jokinen said. "It was great. I got a chance to play with (Shane) Doan and (Ed) Jovanovski and a lot of the young players, but I'm very excited to join Calgary and play with some of the top players in the world. As a player you always want to be in a place where they really want you and it's a good challenge for me. The bottom line is my job is to go there, fit in and try to help the team."
In the other deal, Calgary got Leopold, 28, who will be playing for the Flames again. The defenseman, who has 105 points in 333 career NHL games, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent after this season.
He played with Robyn Regehr during the Flames' run to the 2004 Stanley Cup Final and said Regehr was the first player he spoke to after finding out about Wednesday's trade.
"When I got traded from Calgary I was pretty banged up. I've had a lot of injuries over the last couple of seasons," Leopold told www.calgaryflames.com. "It's been frustrating not being able to play, and the mental side of it, too. I found a way to get healthy over the summer and I think emerged as my old self this season.
"I never liked playing against the Flames. They were my former team and they play with a lot of heart and a lot of grit. That's what Darryl demands."
Sutter's shrewd moves struck a chord with at least one Western Conference GM.
"Leopold played for them when they beat us in '04 on their run to the Final, so they know him real well and they got a big, strong, powerful center down the middle," Detroit GM Ken Holland said on the NHL Network. "The question is how quickly can you get chemistry? Jokinen will eat up 19 to 20 minutes, so he is taking somebody's ice time away. He's a tremendous player and they're a big, strong team. They are going to be a tremendous factor in the playoffs."
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org