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Ready for anything

Jokinen likes being a Jet, but not losing sleep over possible trade

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Winnipeg Jets centre Olli Jokinen, 35, will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. He's racked up 33 points in 62 games this season, but could be on the block.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Winnipeg Jets centre Olli Jokinen, 35, will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. He's racked up 33 points in 62 games this season, but could be on the block. Photo Store

If Olli Jokinen listened to any of the latest trade-deadline chatter on television or radio, or counted the number of times his name had been dropped in news articles and blogs, his suitcases would be sitting by the door of his Winnipeg home.

 

He'd have all the required change-of-address forms filled out, the moving company would be on speed dial with the good china and cutlery already delicately packed and ready to be shipped.

The count is unofficial, of course, but no other Jet -- outside of maybe Dustin Byfuglien or fellow unrestricted free agent Devin Setoguchi -- has been linked to more speculation, gossip or rumours in advance of Wednesday's deadline than the veteran 35-year-old Finn.

"I don't think about it. I don't really care, to be honest," said Jokinen Sunday with a shrug. "It's one of those things that is there, but the older you get, you focus on different things. My focus is to try and get better every day. That's all I can control.

'I don't think about it. I don't really care, to be honest' -- Olli Jokinen

"In Calgary I had a no-move clause for two years. Here I have a limited no-trade clause, but at the end of the day everyone is available if there is the right deal to be made. I'm not going to lose my sleep over it."

Part of that is experience talking -- a been-there, lived-through-that perspective that comes from having been traded before. Many, many times before.

Originally drafted by the Los Angeles Kings, Jokinen -- inhale here -- was traded after one year in California to the New York Islanders in 1999; then shipped from Long Island to Florida in 2000; from the Panthers to Phoenix in 2008; from the Coyotes to Calgary in 2009 and finally from the Flames to the Rangers in 2010.

And so while the increasing fascination around the annual deadline has almost made it a national holiday -- for hockey fans, at least -- Jokinen will attempt to steer clear of the rumours even as his stock seems to be growing.

He's played in only six playoff games in a 1,149-game career -- scoring twice and adding three assists for the 2008-09 Flames -- but has given the Jets some solid third-line minutes with 14 goals and 19 assists in 62 games.

And coming off an Olympic tournament in which he centred Finland's top line, he's been very good of late, scoring the decisive marker in last Thursday's shootout win over Phoenix and potting the first goal in Saturday's victory over Nashville.

His indifference to the deadline aside, Jokinen admitted Sunday he would love to stick with a team he has been with for two years, especially as it is in a remarkable turnaround that now has them thinking playoffs.

"The deadline, it's more about you guys in the media," he said. "You guys have your lists about who is going to be traded and it's based on contract status or some other reasons. It's never hardly the players.

"I've never seen in the past where the players are focusing on it, or saying, 'Oh, who's going to get traded? Are we going to get players? Are we going to get this, are we going to get that?' It's not like that. The guys in the room, you never want to see anybody go anywhere. This is a group of guys who have been working through training camps, through the tough times all year. It's never a hot topic.

"This is like your family. You can go around into 29 other dressing rooms in the league and you'll hear the same thing."

That's part of the great conundrum for Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff in the next couple of days: Does he bust up this good thing his club has going by dealing a Jokinen, Setoguchi or Byfuglien, knowing it messes with a lineup that is winning right now?

On the flip side, if he doesn't bite on an offer for, in Jokinen's case, a 35-year-old who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and the Jets miss the playoffs or crash and burn in the opening round, standing still can hardly be considered the right tactic, either.

None of that, of course, matters a lick to Jokinen. His main concern Sunday? Making sure his Monday was even better.

"All I'm thinking about is tomorrow," he said. "At my age you don't make plans. There's no point. You're going to have a better life if you think that way because it doesn't matter if you have 10 years left on your contract or no years... anything can happen.

"All of this could be over tomorrow. Anything could happen outside of hockey. You could get hurt. I try to enjoy every day I get to play this game and when it's over try to look forward to having a great next day. If you're able to do that, your life is pretty good."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 3, 2014 C3

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