Just before 5 p.m., Tuesday afternoon, only two hours after the trade deadline had come and gone, Olli Jokinen was still a Florida Panther.
And still happy about being one.
“I’m happy I didn’t get moved,” said Jokinen, who was the subject of trade rumors the past few weeks. “I signed here two years ago a four-year extension, and I want to stay here longer than those four years. Like I said before, this is the place I want to be.”
The Panthers didn’t sit back at the trade deadline. They acquired tough guy Wade Belak and hard-hitting forward Chad Kilger from the Maple Leafs for draft picks, and traded Ruslan Salei to Colorado for Karlis Skrastins.
But Jokinen, the team’s leading scorer the past five seasons, remained in South Florida despite all the rumors.
“It’s the same story every year,” Jokinen said. “The media…they always have a rumor or a scoop. Whether it’s true or not, it’s always good to put the deadline behind you. Every year it seems to start earlier. In my case, it started last summer when Mike (Keenan) went to Calgary. It’s just the way the business goes.
“If the team was in a playoff spot, it would be the opposite way. They’d be writing about who we are going to get.”
GM and coach Jacques Martin said he had several conversations with other GM’s around the league during the day. Could Martin have made more deals? “If I was prepared to give a (Michael) Frolik or (Shawn) Matthias,” he said. “I believe for the best of the organization, I’m not willing to do that.”
Jokinen, who leads the team with 30 goals, 60 points and 14 power play goals, said he likes what the Panthers did at Tuesday’s trade deadline.
“I think Belak will be a big plus for our hockey club,” Jokinen said. “When you look at the past few years, we haven’t had anyone like him. Before, we had Paul Laus and Peter Worrell. Those guys became fan favorites. Those kinds of guys are very useful to a team.
“Now we have a true heavyweight on our team. I think it gives your better players a little more freedom. It’s always good to have that toughness, and Kilger…he’s the type of guy who forechecks hard.”