The Nashville Predators' hiring of coach Peter Laviolette and the attraction of playing under his offensive system was enough to lure veteran center Olli Jokinen to the Music City.
Jokinen is familiar with Laviolette's up-tempo offense having frequently competed against his teams throughout his 17-year NHL career. Upon signing a one-year contract worth a reported $2.5 million, he views the new-look Predators as an opportunity to spark new life into his game and can't wait to get going.
"Obviously with the excitement and the passion about the game, and ideas of how he was going to coach this team, that was one of the biggest reasons I decided to come here," Jokinen, 35, told reporters Saturday. "Speaking with him, I got excited. I wanted to start playing tomorrow.
"This team is a really good team. With Pekka in the net and a healthy Rinne, it gives you a chance to win every night. We have the best defensemen in the League in Shea Weber, best young defenseman in the League in Roman Josi… a lot of players that play this game for a long time. For me this was the best option, to come to a team that not just wants to get to the playoffs but wants to go far."
Jokinen has competed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs only once, in 2009 with the Calgary Flames. Although the Predators have missed the postseason the past two years they came close in 2013-14, finishing three points out of the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
"We both have the same background in the last couple years, and that's one negative we both have, and that's not making the playoffs," Predators general manager David Poile said. "That's something that I know he wants to do, and he is going to do everything he can to help us get there.
"Olli has been a guy that has produced throughout his career offensively. I think this is a significant addition to our hockey club."
Selected by the Los Angeles Kings with the No. 3 pick of the 1997 NHL Draft, Jokinen will play for his eighth NHL team. He had 18 goals and 25 assists in 82 games last season with the Winnipeg Jets and enjoyed his best season with the Florida Panthers in 2006-07, when he had career-highs in goals (39), assists (52) and points (91) He has 317 goals and 423 assists in 1,169 regular-season games while scoring 20 or more goals seven times.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Jokinen fills a need for the Predators at center, but also provides enough flexibility to play on the wing.
"Doesn't matter. I've been playing most of my career at center," Jokinen said. "It's more finding the chemistry with certain players.
"I've been playing this game for a long time. You have to earn everything. You can make lineups and make plans, but I'm happy to play any kind of role. At the end of the day, it's about winning and helping this team win hockey games. You've got to come to the rink and bring your work ethic. The best way is to lead by example."
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