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Jokinen trade could be just the start for Maple Leafs

by Mike Brophy

TORONTO -- Olli Jokinen made his way through the crowd of waiting reporters outside the dressing room of the Toronto Maple Leafs practice facility and shook his head in bewilderment.

"Wow, Toronto," he said.

The 15-year veteran had been traded Sunday to the Maple Leafs from the Nashville Predators, who do not quite attract such massive media coverage. How long will his stay in Toronto be? That is not certain.

Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis said the goal is to get Jokinen in peak playing form in hopes that a contender for the Stanley Cup Playoffs may wish to acquire him to add depth to its organization.

Jokinen was asked how long he expects to be with the Maple Leafs.

"I don't know," Jokinen said. "Right now I am a Maple Leaf and I'll probably take it day by day."

The Maple Leafs traded two veterans, defenseman Cody Franson and forward Mike Santorelli, to the Predators for Jokinen, a first-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft and forward prospect Brendan Leipsic. It is quite possibly the first of a series of moves the Maple Leafs will make in an effort to forge a new direction for the organization.

Nonis said there are no untouchables on the roster, though he did suggest trading second-year defenseman Morgan Rielly, 20, is highly unlikely. Others that could be moved include top scorer Phil Kessel, captain Dion Phaneuf and left wing Daniel Winnik.

Like Franson and Santorelli, Winnik is slated to be an unrestricted free agent in the summer, so the Maple Leafs do not want to lose him for nothing. Unless they sign Winnik to a contract extension before the NHL Trade Deadline at 3 p.m. ET on March 2, he is most likely to be traded. Winnik understands this, but said it is out of his hands.

"I'll just keep playing my game," Winnik said. "It's just rumors and when it happens, it happens. All I can do is keep playing hockey."

Center Nazem Kadri's name has also popped up in trade rumors, but he said he does not want to be moved.

"It's always a little nerve-wracking at this time of year," Kadri said. "If they want me here I am definitely willing to stay here. For years I have shown my commitment to Toronto, and what they want to do is up to them."

Kadri has been through trade deadlines in the past and knows what to expect.

"You always wonder what the future for this organization holds and obviously moves are going to be made," Kadri said. "Really, that is out of the players' control. It is in the back of our minds, but we're not sitting around worrying who's going for who or who's going for who. We're just trying to play and get two points every night."

Veteran defenseman Stephane Robidas, 37, signed a three-year contract with the Maple Leafs last summer with the understanding he was being brought in to help the young players on the team learn how to be good pros. Robidas said he has not been pleased with Toronto's lack of success, but that does not change his job description. Having played 14 years in the NHL, he has been down this road before.

"It's not an easy situation when you lose teammates and friends," Robidas said. "When you start the year, you start with a group and you hope you will finish the year with the same group and you will lift that big trophy at the end. Sometimes things start going south and management has to make decisions. For us, as players, it's not easy to see players go but it is part of the business."

Olli Jokinen
Center - TOR
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 6
SOG: 83 | +/-: 2
Jokinen was at practice at MasterCard Centre, but did not join his new teammates on the ice. Interim coach Peter Horachek was unsure if he'll dress Tuesday when the Florida Panthers come to town.

"Right now it doesn't look like it because [Franson and Santorelli] have not been cleared to play in Nashville," Horachek said.

Horachek believes, even if it is only for a short term, Jokinen can help his team win games.

"He's played 1,200 games and we need that experience now," Horachek said. "He's a center, a big man who has played in a lot of situations. He's going to play center. He's in great shape and still wants to prove to everybody he can still play for years to come."

Jokinen signed a one-year contract with Nashville last July and expected he would play center, the position he has played his entire career. Instead he played at right wing and did not enjoy the experience.

"I don't know what happened between July 2 and the beginning of training camp, but I found myself playing wing," Jokinen said. "I was very uncomfortable. I had never played wing in my life. I think I wasn't used properly there."

Jokinen said the key for him in his current situation, knowing he is likely to be traded again, is to act professionally.

"You've got to respect the game and the players you play with," Jokinen said. "And you've got to enjoy playing this game. You do what they tell you."

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