OTTAWA – Wayne Gretzky
sees skill and power, and when you get the chance to land a player with that combination "The Great One" feels you must do whatever you can to get him.
The Phoenix Coyotes
did just that Friday night, trading a pair of solid defensemen, Keith Ballard
and Nick Boynton
, as well as their second-round pick (No. 49) to Florida in exchange for former Panthers captain Olli Jokinen
, who is just the skilled and powerful forward Gretzky coveted for his emerging lineup.
Jokinen became the Panthers' all-time leading scorer in his seven seasons in Florida, and had 34 goals and 37 assists this past season. However, he never led the Panthers to the playoffs during his tenure there.
"Any time to get a good player you have to give up, and obviously we have a hole to fill with Keith Ballard
and Nick Boynton
being gone, but we really feel that we got a big horse in the middle, a guy that can play a lot of minutes, can score big goals for us and can give us a physical presence," Gretzky told NHL.com. "Just as important, it takes pressure off Kyle Turris
and Marty Hanzal, so we don't have to lean on those guys. They're only 18 and 20 years old."
Jacques Martin, the Panthers GM, was just as thrilled to get the two defensemen he felt his team was lacking.
The trade also squelches all those Jokinen trade rumors you've been hearing since well before the Feb. 26 trade deadline this past season.
Ballard is a former first-round pick for Buffalo in 2002 and has some offensive ability. He and Jay Bouwmeester
likely will form the team's top defense pair. Boynton is a stay-at-home defenseman who likely will play on the team's second pair.
"This deal really addresses our needs," Martin told NHL.com shortly after the deal was announced. "You look at Keith Ballard
, he's a No. 2 defenseman that can support Jay Bouwmeester
. And Nick Boynton
can play in our top four. We have improved our defense by a wide margin."
Gretzky said getting a player like Jokinen is fantastic for Coyotes captain Shane Doan
, who also is a physical player that can score goals and play big minutes.
"This is great for Shane because he's going to get a guy now that has played in the League for a while, that can move the puck and play as physical as Shane does," Gretzky said. "This is one of those trades that is really good for both teams. Florida is going to be happy with what they got and we're happy with what we got."
Martin said he understands Panthers fans could be upset that they traded away a lot of points by shipping Jokinen to Phoenix, but he counters by supporting his younger players that could be NHL-ready next year.
"Fans will say we lose a lot of points in Olli Jokinen
, but we feel we have a couple of kids coming that are probably ready to play in the National Hockey League in Shawn Matthias
and Michael Frolik
," the Panthers GM said. "This gives them even a better opportunity."
Martin compared this deal to the one the Panthers swung last year with Nashville to acquire goalie Tomas Vokoun
"Last summer when we went to the draft we had a need with goaltending," he said. "I think our fans realize Tomas is a tremendous goaltender and he's in the top tier of goaltenders."
Martin said while the trade was consummated in the hours leading up to Friday's first round, the teams began feeling out each other for this kind of a deal at least a month ago.
"As a GM, it's my responsibility to see if we can improve our hockey club," Martin said. "We haven't made the playoffs in seven years and we're in a better position today. I really believe in order to win you have to have a good back end. Look at the Detroit Red Wings
; one of the keys on their hockey club has been their defense and we needed to improve that area of our team."
Newly hired Panthers coach Peter DeBoer
had some input in this deal because he coached Boynton with Team Canada at the World Junior Championships.
"He knows Nick, and Keith Ballard
is a well-established defenseman in the NHL," Martin said. "(DeBoer) is excited that we got these two individuals to help our hockey team."
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com.