Having a good regular season in a contract year is always important for a player prior to becoming free agent.
Having a good postseason in a contact year might be even more important.
In 2010, forward Ville Leino blew up for 21 points in 19 postseason games for the Eastern Conference champion Flyers. That success translated to a six-year, $27 million contract with the Sabres.
In 2013, forward Bryan Bickell scored 17 points in 23 games for the eventual Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks. That success translated to four-year contract worth $16 million.
In 2014, forward Jussi Jokinen is in the midst of a seven-game scoring streak and is second on the Penguins with eight points this postseason. Most of his five goals in these playoffs have been key as well. He scored the game-winning goals in Games 3 and 5 in the first round of the first round series against the Blue Jackets. Additionally, he has scored important goals which have virtually dashed any hopes of comebacks for the Rangers in Games 2 and 3 in the ongoing second round series.
Among players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents this summer, Jokinen has the second-most points:
|Paul Stastny, Avalanche||7||5-5-10|
|Marian Gabroik, Kings||8||5-3-8|
|Jussi Jokinen, Penguins||9||5-3-8|
|Matt Niskanen, Penguins||9||2-6-8|
|Thomas Vanek, Canadiens||7||3-3-6|
|Benoit Pouliot, Rangers||10||3-3-6|
|Dany Heatley, Wild||8||1-5-6|
|Jarome Iginla, Bruins||8||3-2-5|
|Brian Gionta, Canadiens||7||1-3-4|
|Teemu Selanne, Ducks||7||1-3-4|
|Dan Boyle, Sharks||7||0-4-4|
What will that success translate to for Jokinen this summer? Presumably, no one will know until July 1 when the free agency signing period begins. For the time being, he's enjoying his success.
Earlier today, he talked about his current run in the postseason:
What has this season been like for you?
"It’s been a fun year. This was a big year for me. Not playing all the playoff games last year. It’s not fun to sit in the press box this time of the year. I had a really good summer. I was healthy the whole summer. I was able to work out like I wanted and come to camp and win a spot to play with [James Neal] and [Evgeni Malkin]. Since that, it’s been a fun year. I think I’ve produced pretty consistently. Had the Olympics there. Was able to play good there and get a medal there. I think I’ve been able to play to keep playing how I played in the regular season in the playoffs. This is the most fun time of the year to play. I’ve been able to produce and help the team win."
Are you more comfortable this postseason compared to last postseason?
"I was pretty comfortable last year too. I got in, played in [Sidney Crosby’s] spot. Got a good start. Was able to produce right away. Obviously we had so many good forwards in our lineup. The coaches didn’t know me as well as they do now so they probably didn’t have as much confidence in me as they do now."
This success in the postseason will probably benefit you as a free agent this summer.
"[Smiles] Yeah, it probably won’t hurt."
Does having a fairly set role on the left wing of the second line benefit you? Last season, you were used in a variety of roles.
"Maybe a little bit. But last year, like you said, I played center in the regular season. I think even this year, in the regular season, I think I played the last 10 games at center when [Malkin] went out [with injury]. Right at the start of the playoffs, I’ve been playing wing. That’s never been too, too big of a problem for me. I think the biggest thing for me is that I’ve been able play the top-six role the whole year. I’ve played some top-six minutes with some pretty good players. And I’ve played some okay minutes in the power play. That’s what you need to get. If you’re an offensive player and you’re want to produce, you need those minutes and those opportunities with the good players. The coaches have been giving me that this year."
You had a solid run with the 2009 Hurricanes scoring 11 points in 18 postseason games. How does this current postseason compare to that 2009 postseason?
"I think obviously maybe here there’s more expectations. If you’re not winning the Cup, it’s disappointing. There in Carolina, I think were where more underdogs and nobody expected anything from us. As a player this time of the year is the most fun. You worked so hard over your career, over the summer, all the regular season. Pretty much, all the work is done now. You enjoy and you just play and try to bring that energy every night. You have to play with the confidence. Some nights, you don’t produce, you have to bring the same confidence every night. You need to have confidence in yourself and your team that you are good and you can win the series and produce."
(Photo: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)