It's only one side of the equation, but it sure seems as though Jussi Jokinen
would prefer to stay with Carolina.
As a restricted free agent, he can only leave on his own if another team signs him to an offer sheet - a rare and expensive proposition for a team hoping to do so. However, he will have to agree to a new contract with Carolina before the start of next season.
“I obviously really liked all the time I was here,” said Jokinen. “I hope I’ll be back and I want to be back. It’s really a first-class organization.
“It’s been kind of a new start to my career,” he added. “I’m still really thankful to Jim Rutherford and the whole organization for finding a way to get me here and giving me a chance to be the hockey player I can be.”
After what he contributed to the team since he arrived in a February trade with Tampa Bay, it’s likely the Hurricanes’ front office feels the same way. Although he started as a depth player, Jokinen filled in admirably for an injured Matt Cullen on the team’s second line late in the season before embarking on arguably the most memorable individual postseason run in the team’s history.
Speaking of his playoff moments, Jokinen had to think long and hard when asked which one was his favorite.
“Against Brodeur with 0.2 seconds left is going to be tough to break,” he said. “If somebody’s going to break it, they’ll have to do it with 0.1 so it’s not very easy.”
For a player that went through waivers twice in Tampa Bay before the trade and was nearly reassigned to the American Hockey League, it’s hard to imagine a bigger in-season turnaround.
“It’s a good fit, and it seems like so many players that come here find their game again,” he said.
Another incentive for Jokinen to return will be the presence of fellow Finnish players Joni Pitkanen and Tuomo Ruutu, although Ruutu himself is a restricted free agent.
“It doesn’t happen too often from a small country like Finland is,” he said. “I’ve been playing pretty much on the same team as Joni since we were 14 years old and have known Tuomo since 15 years old. It was a great experience for all of us three with the great run we made in the playoffs and made it even more special.
“I hope all three of us will be here to start next year and have a good season again.”
Jokinen also mentioned the reception he received from the team’s fans during the season, particularly at the outset of his playoff heroics.
“The fans here are the greatest I’ve seen in any place in the NHL,” he said. “There are so many great memories. Obviously them singing my name during the national anthem is pretty neat and pretty cool.”
Besides just saying that he wants to come back, Jokinen also spoke of the Hurricanes’ next season as though it was a foregone conclusion that he would be part of it, saying things along the lines of how they could do better next year.
If that is the case, the Hurricanes should be excited to see what the 26-year-old can do coming into a stable situation on a team that clearly wants him back.
“I still feel I have another level, and I’ll work hard over the summer to still be a better player than I was this year,” he said.