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Jokinen to test free agency

A source confirmed Thursday Olli Jokinen will become an unrestricted free agent Sunday. (QMI Agency...

A source confirmed Thursday Olli Jokinen will become an unrestricted free agent Sunday. (QMI Agency files)

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:16 AM ET

CALGARY - Olli Jokinen’s second stint in Calgary is officially over.

Despite his wishes to re-sign with the Flames, a source confirmed Thursday the 34-year-old centre will become an unrestricted free agent Sunday.

Arguably the Flames’ most consistent skater last year until a late-season injury rendered him useless the last dozen NHL games, Jokinen is, indeed, in line for a large pay increase from the US$3 million the Flames last paid him.

But it won’t come from the Flames, who have shown little interest in retaining the services of the man who played parts of four seasons here.

Given the shortage of impact players who will be up for grabs July 1, Jokinen can expect somewhere between $4 and $5 million annually elsewhere for his services depending on the term. After all, last year, the big seven-time 20-goal scorer focused more on being a shut-down forward, demonstrating his versatility.

Over the last three seasons, only three players heading into unrestricted free agency have scored more points (165) than Jokinen — Teemu Selanne (194), Ray Whitney (192) and Alexander Semin (192).

Well aware the team needs to make changes after three seasons of playoff-less hockey, the Flames never really engaged in any serious discussions with Jokinen. Signing him long term was certainly never considered.

Flames GM Jay Feaster refused to comment, citing his policy of staying mum on such players.

“Cannot/will not confirm or deny, and nothing should be inferred by my refusal to confirm or deny,” said Feaster via email.

“As I have said all along, we are not talking about our own pending UFAs other than to announce if/when we re-sign any of them. We haven’t done so to date and are not going to change our policy now.”

Jokinen’s departure will leave a hole Feaster will have a hard time filling July 1 or any other time, meaning the Flames could enter next season with Roman Cervenka, Matt Stajan, Mikael Backlund and Blair Jones up the middle. That’s assuming the latter two restricted free agents re-sign with the club.

Mike Cammalleri can also play center, something the club would rather not be forced into.

eric.francis@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @ericfrancis


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