NHL Notebook: Olli Jokinen talks about Jesse Puljujarvi’s struggles, Canucks GM admits they’re “in a pickle” with Bo Horvat, and more

Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Cam Lewis
1 year ago
Vancouver Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford fielded questions from the media for nearly an hour on Monday and a lot of strange things were said.
When asked about whether Bruce Boudreau would remain the team’s coach moving forward, Rutherford said “all I can say is that Bruce is our coach right now… but with that, I’m calling and talking, but don’t know that we’re making a change and don’t want to make a change.” When asked if the Canucks were aiming for a high draft pick, he claimed “I thought we were tanking, we’re pretty close to the bottom,” but also that they’re “not looking towards a rebuild.”
Say what you want about Ken Holland going on about vacuums and Detroit, but he’s never left the audience this confused.
From the perspective of those who root for other teams, perhaps the most interesting note from Rutherford’s press conference on Monday was about the status of Bo Horvat, who’s eligible to hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career this summer. Rutherford said that they’ve made what appears to be their final offer to retain their captain…
“I believe we’ve taken our best shot. The offer we have on the table right now is fair value for what he’s done up to this year… We’re in a pickle here. He’s had a career run and he’s looking for his money.”
After the Canucks re-signed J.T. Miller to a seven-year, $56 million contract extension last summer, the idea of also keeping around Horvat started to look difficult. Given the season Horvat is putting together before free agency, it seems almost impossible now.
Through 43 games, the 27-year-old has 30 goals, which is just one shy of matching his career-high, and he has 48 points, putting him on pace to score 92 points over the course of 82 games. For context, Miller scored 32 goals and 99 points last season before signing his extension worth $8 million annually, so Horvat will surely be looking for something similar.
On a recent episode of 32 Thoughts: The Podcast, Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman did a deep dive into the Canucks and what they might do ahead of the March 3 trade deadline. The Edmonton Oilers were mentioned as a possible fit for Horvat and that he’d be willing to stick around long-term…
The idea of adding Horvat is an interesting one. Though he’s not the defenceman that Oilers observers have been asking about for months, he’s an excellent player in the midst of an incredible season and he would make Edmonton’s strong-but-hop-heavy attack much deeper.
Having Horvat as the second-line centre would allow the Oilers to stack Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on a line together while also keeping Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the two-way, third-line centre role that he’s been thriving in recently. The trouble, of course, is the salary cap, as fitting Horvat into the picture this season would be difficult enough, let alone retaining him into the future at the annual figure he’s going to command.
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Over the weekend, former NHL star Olli Jokinen, who’s now coaching in Finland’s top league, spoke to Finnish national media outlet YLE about how he relates to Jesse Puljujarvi’s struggles as a young player with great expectations trying to find his way.
Jokinen was selected No. 3 overall in the 1997 NHL Draft by the Los Angeles Kings behind Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. He scored 21 points over 66 games as a 20-year-old in his first full season in the NHL and was dealt the following summer to the New York Islanders in a multi-player deal that sent Ziggy Palffy back the other way. After just one season with New York in which he again scored 21 points, Jokinen was moved to the Florida Panthers.
His first two seasons in Florida were ugly, as he scored just 45 points over the course of 158 games. During the first season, the Panthers fired head coach and general manager Terry Murray and replaced him with Duane Sutter, who announced to Jokinen that he would “never be a top-tier player.”
Jokinen said everything changed when the team fired Sutter and replaced him with Mike Keenan, who offered him a 40-game run to go out and show what he could do…
“[Kennan] said don’t be afraid of mistakes, now you get to play the next forty games with all strengths, weaknesses,” Jokinen said. “For the first time in five years, there was no need to be afraid of mistakes. However, in the past, the spirit of the game was that if you make a mistake, you don’t play.”
Jokinen enjoyed a breakout season in 2002-03, as he led the Panthers with 36 goals and 65 points. He went on to play 17 seasons in the NHL, totalling 321 goals and 750 points over the course of 1,231 games.
Though those early years in L.A., New York, and under Sutter in Florida were rough on him, Jokinen said that they were critical for his development as a player, as he learned that you need to fight for everything in the NHL…
“That school raised me spiritually. I understood that one can never be satisfied with one’s position, never,” Jokinen said. “You have to fight every day and come out in training as well. I learned about professionalism and its brutality. The role was such that I learned to defend, play hard and protect myself.”
Jokinen’s breakthrough came when he was 24 years old playing in his fifth full season in North America. Puljujarvi is 24 this season and he’s in the middle of his sixth season in North America but he hasn’t managed to find his game like Jokinen did. Playing largely bottom-six minutes this season, Puljujarvi has just four goals and 10 points, but Jokinen still believes his countryman can figure it out in the world’s best league, but it might require a change of scenery…
“Jesse is a world-class player in my books,” Jokinen said.  I can see that a change of environment would be really good for him. Jesse would now just need a little help on the mental side and support for everything he does on a daily basis.
“If I had given up in the most difficult moments, I would never have had such a career.”

Quick notes…

  • The Minnesota Wild have inked forward Matt Boldy to a long-term deal worth $49 million over seven years. Boldy was selected with the No. 12 overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and has 27 goals and 68 points over the course of 89 games since entering the league last season.
  • Detroit Red Wings goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic made it through waivers unclaimed on Monday. In 2021, Nedeljkovic had what appeared to be a breakout season with the Carolina Hurricanes, posting a .932 save percentage over 23 games and finishing third in Calder Trophy voting. The Wings traded for Nedeljkovic and inked him to a two-year, $6 million deal and he’s posted an .898 save percentage over 68 games in Detroit since.
  • Apparently, the San Jose Sharks will retain 18 percent of Erik Karlsson’s contract, which has four more seasons left on it at $11.5 million annually, but they’re looking for three first-round picks in return. Karlsson is back to his Norris Trophy level this year, as he has a whopping 56 points over 44 games, but who would possibly be able to afford to pull the trigger on such a deal?

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