Jokinen future uncertain

The Finnish centre didn't sound positive about coming back to the Calgary Flames. (QMI Agency)

The Finnish centre didn't sound positive about coming back to the Calgary Flames. (QMI Agency)

Ian Busby, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:19 PM ET

Over the past few weeks, Olli Jokinen didn’t make much of a case for why anyone should shell out major money for his services next year and beyond.

And as he did his exit meetings, cleaned out his locker and left the Saddledome Monday, the Finnish centre didn’t sound positive about coming back to the Calgary Flames.

Sure, he did say he would like to return, but he turned right around and said a short-term deal isn’t for him and the Flames shouldn’t pinch pennies because they have the salary-cap space.

His stock went down by going minus-14 in the final 10 games before the team was eliminated from the playoffs, but he’s not going to take a hometown discount to help turn this team around.

“We will have answers before July 1 for what Calgary is going to do and what I’m going to do,” the pending free agent said.

“We don’t have to go that far to figure out what it’s going to be.

“We will find out pretty soon which direction they will be going and we will go from there.

“The last time I checked, there is a lot of money to spend here, too. A lot of contracts are expiring. Who knows what will happen here? We will wait and see.”

If Jokinen’s signing two years ago to a US$6-million deal by Darryl Sutter was a stunner, it would have to be considered a complete shock if something like that happened again.

There were times this season when that wasn’t the case.

Through December, there was a stretch where Jokinen picked up points in 11 of 13 games and he moved into a first-line role again.

The 33-year-old kept it going until it got to crunch time and the Flames needed big performances from their top players to get into the post-season.

Last week, Jokinen’s agent said his client was dealing with a ‘significant abdominal strain,’ giving him an excuse to why his play dropped off.

The player wouldn’t comment on that Monday, saying everyone plays through some sort of pain.

Jokinen’s explanation for why the team failed again to make the playoffs was because of a slow start. They just couldn’t catch up.

In his 14-year NHL career, the only time Jokinen played in the post-season was when he came to the Flames midway through the 2008-09 season.

With Jokinen on board for 19 games, the Flames went 8-10-1 and limped into the playoffs, losing in the first round to the Chicago Blackhawks, but Jokinen did lead the team with five points in the six-game series.

Now that he has a chance to pick where he wants to play, it would seem like an ideal chance to go to a contender.

In that respect, he doesn’t rule out the Flames.

“We’re maybe a few players away,” Jokinen said. “In our minds, we have the best goalie (Miikka Kiprusoff) in the league.

“Every night you have a chance to win because he can steal a game for you. There are 29 other teams who want a goalie like we have.

“That’s where everything starts. You can’t say before the season the Flames won’t get in. That’s not how we think. If a player thinks that way, it’s time to go.”

The one stumbling block that should signal an end to Jokinen’s time in Calgary is the desire for a long-term deal.

If the Flames try to reload and not rebuild, they won’t want to lock up an over-30 player for years to come.

Jokinen isn’t thinking short term.

“I’m not old enough to say I should have a one-year deal and go year by year,” Jokinen said, referring to Anaheim Ducks players Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu as examples.

“You heard that from a couple of my countrymen. They don’t know what they will do. If they play, they will go year by year.

“I still have a lot of years left.”

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter @SUNIanBusby 


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