Eric Francis of the Calgary Sun reports that center Olli Jokinen won't return to the Calgary Flames next season and shall test ye olde market as, perhaps, the best free-agent center available when the fun begins on July 1.
Jokinen's return to Calgary was one of the oddest stories of the 2010 Free Agent Frenzy, coming back to the Flames for $3 million per season after they traded him to the New York Rangers while making $5.5 million in 2009-10. GM Darryl Sutter re-signed him for fewer dollars but with no-trade clause assurances in his contract.
He had 54 points in 79 games in 2010-11. Last season, he had 61 points in 82 games, including 23 goals, skating with Jarome Iginla much of the time. (His slump-buster this season? Big Macs.) He also had 24 points on the power play.
He wanted to stay in Calgary.
Having finally found a way to mesh with Flames shooting star Jarome Iginla, Jokinen anchored the club's top line most of the year while also focusing on a defensive side of the game that has helped him become the team's most consistent skater this season.
"They need to sit down and figure it out, because it's no secret I want to stay," Jokinen said of the preliminary contract talks between his agent, Ian Pulver, and Feaster. "I know how the business goes, and nothing is set in stone. They know what I want, and the ball is in their hands."
And apparently they've passed the ball to someone else.
There's no question Jokinen, 33, has never truly achieved what his talent promised in the NHL. Part of that was his lifestyle choices earlier in his career — he's now six years sober — and part of it was simply not meshing with the teams for whom he played.
The Flames were a good match this season. Perhaps a place like Dallas might work. In any case, Calgary looks like they'll go young in the middle this season. Unless GM Jay Feaster's got something else cooking.