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X-Factor: Trade for Jokinen great help to Penguins

by Corey Masisak /

The NHL Trade Deadline was still six days away, and Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero already had made a stunning flurry of moves.

Shero added two captains and members of the 2010 Canadian Olympic team, and a hulking defenseman to what already was a Stanley Cup-contending roster. So it was understandable that when Shero made another trade on deadline day -- adding Jussi Jokinen from the Carolina Hurricanes for a conditional draft pick -- it didn't cause nearly the stir that welcoming Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray to Pittsburgh did.

Jokinen was an insurance policy after Sidney Crosby was lost to a broken jaw. He was a low-risk replacement, and the Hurricanes even agreed to pay a portion of his salary because his contract runs through next season.

Well, Jokinen has proven to be quite the profitable addition. He was a point-per-game player for the Penguins since the trade April 3, and has filled in seamlessly on a scoring line for the Penguins.

When Crosby returns, perhaps as early as Game 1 of the first round, Jokinen likely will be shuffled to the fourth line. Until then, he could continue to center the team's top line between Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis.

Jokinen won't be expected to be a critical source of offense in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but he could be a key figure until Crosby returns. If the Penguins do get healthy, Jokinen could be a huge advantage centering the fourth line.

Fourth lines often end up on the ice at the same time, and a trio that includes Jokinen and Tyler Kennedy or Beau Bennett would be distinctly more skilled than most teams can offer.

There also is the two-way element of Jokinen's game. Adding another forward who is comfortable at both ends of the ice could prove to be of significant value in the playoffs. And Jokinen has something of a postseason track record: He scored seven times in 18 games (including three game-winners) during Carolina's run to the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals, where the Hurricanes were swept by the Penguins.

On a team overflowing with star power, Jokinen always will be an unheralded player. Even when he was a trade-deadline acquisition, he was overlooked. It is not out of the realm of possibility that Jokinen proves to be every bit as valuable to the Penguins during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the more heralded guys who joined the team a few days before him.

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